Yorkshire 282 for 3 (Ballance 111, Kohler-Cadmore 77*) v Somerset
The World's Most Famous Umpire (retired) was holding audience once more at Headingley and one thing was firmly on his mind. "Forty-four years," he said. "Forty-four years." Cricket has seen a lot of changes since Dickie Bird stood in the first World Cup final, but what hasn't changed is his love affair with Yorkshire cricket and all connected with it.
Wherever he went, he was accosted by people asking him if he had ever witnessed a worse example of dissent than that seen from Jason Roy in the semi-final of the World Cup, 2019 vintage (at least one well-known Yorkshire and England cricketer was adamant that he should have been banned from Sunday's final, a legitimate opinion that nevertheless might not entirely fit with the yearning of the nation) and whether he was about to put in a bid for Boston Hall which Geoffrey Boycott has just put on the market for a cool £2.85m.
HD Bird indicated that he plans to keep his hand in his pocket which is pretty much what Roy seemed to be telling umpire Kumar Dharmasena.
Beneath his gaze, Yorkshire's batsmen were making Somerset labour, reaching 282 for 3 in the day with admirable discipline, and a sense throughout that they viewed it as a bridgehead for 450. Bird was elsewhere by the time Gary Ballance delivered his fifth Championship hundred of the season, but somewhere on the ground he would have been pushing Ballance's claims for the Ashes. England's selectors are unlikely to listen; Roy's disdainful World Cup is more likely to excite the selectors.
Ballance fell to the second new ball when Tim Groenewald came around the wicket and appeared to seam one away, the batsman's drive pouched in his midriff at second slip by Jamie Overton. Somerset, who had opted to bowl, had got within 15 minutes of the close without finding much justification for the decision - and even that delivery appeared on the replay to have seamed out of a foothole.
Ballance had played with great certainty nevertheless and his one chance came on 110 when James Hildreth put him down at first slip off Overton, only for him to fall in the following over. He was particularly severe through extra cover on Jack Brooks, who had received the warmest of welcomes from the crowd on his return but who in the circumstances probably didn't want his "local knowledge" to be referenced by his coach, Jason Kerr, when it came to deciding whether to bat or bowl.
England might be in a World Cup final, with the usual talk of inspiring a new generation, but with The Hundred only a year away, the dominant mood in county cricket is not of hope, but of foreboding. Witness the Somerset member who suggested at a recent forum that this would be the last Championship worth winning. The implication was, that being so, it would be best if Somerset finally did just that.
Fifteen points clear of Essex, their only realistic challengers, with five matches remaining, Somerset remain well placed to win their first title, but shoving Yorkshire in on a decent batting surface - perhaps taking too much notice of what was overhead than what was down below - was not the best way to go about it.
They lack two key bowlers here with Jack Leach and Lewis Gregory both on Lions duty and, although the attack remains strong, they bowled OK, no better than that. By mid-afternoon, the captain, Tom Abell, took on a bowling spell with the sort of brisk, stoutly-faced military march back to his mark that suggested things were not going awfully well.
For the offspinner, Dom Bess, to bowl 23 overs on the opening day encapsulated that things had not gone to plan. Somerset are about to loan Bess to Yorkshire for the T20 Blast (he also spent a month with them in the Championship), so they will be doubly delighted that he got a good shift in, although such are the mental complexities of the loan system that they might have had strangely mixed feelings when Will Fraine christened the Emerald Stand, which was being used for the first time in a county match, by depositing him into the seats without a care in the world.
Bird had earlier shivered at the mention of the new stand which he says like its predecessor still demands too many pairs of thermal underwear for a man born as far south as Barnsley. Bess asked the umpire to check the ball when it was thrown back to him - presumably because it was encased in ice.
Yorkshire have understandable hopes that Fraine can become a regular opening partner alongside Adam Lyth, but in both cases batsman error contributed to Somerset's picking up of two wickets late in the first session. When Lyth mistimed a cut against Bess to cover and Fraine succumbed to an uppish leg-side clip against Brooks, they were symptomatic of characteristic misjudgements.
But Ballance and Tom Kohler-Cadmore did not waste the opportunity, playing with draining consistency in a stand of 199 in 62. "We needed to be disciplined after last week's defeat at Essex and we were," said Ballance. Nowhere was that change of approach more apparent than in Kohler-Cadmore, who played judiciously and picked the Overton twins off through the leg-side at regular intervals. He was unbeaten on 77 by the close.