Lyth keeps White Rose ticking
Promotion-chasing Yorkshire battled to 284 for eight and two batting points on the opening day of their final LV= County Championship Division Two match against Essex at Chelmsford.
Only opener Adam Lyth batted with any real freedom en route to 67, while Azeem Rafiq added a well-constructed season’s best of 49 not out to steer the visitors away from the troubled waters of 166 for six.
Graham Napier was the pick of the Essex bowlers; claiming 3-52 from 22 overs.
Yorkshire did not get off to the best of starts, with Joe Root not off the mark when he was removed lbw to the ninth delivery of the morning from Napier.
That early setback did not deter Lyth from taking the attack to Essex, though, with a barrage of superb strokes against bowling that was largely found wanting in both length and direction.
He drove and pulled with such freedom that he reached his half-century from just 60 balls, blasting nine fours along the way.
He was so in control that it came as something of a surprise when he departed to a delivery that lifted on him and provided wicketkeeper James Foster with a comfortable catch.
Lyth’s innings, which contained 11 fours, came from 69 deliveries and his departure, with the total on 86, led to a slump in Yorkshire’s fortunes.
A succession of poor strokes contributed to the decline. The third ball after lunch saw Phil Jaques picking out Tymal Mills at long-leg to provide Napier with his third success while Andrew Gale put up a simple catch to the same fielder, this time at midwicket, off spinner Tom Westley.
Gale needed 54 deliveries to collect his 10 runs and he was soon followed back to the pavilion by Gary Ballance as a diving Jaik Mickleburgh held on to a catch at short mid-on after the ball looped up in the air.
Left-arm seamer Reece Topley was the successful bowler and he was to strike again when he had Anthony McGrath taken down the leg side by Foster.
That left Yorkshire on 166 for six but a revival was inspired by Andrew Hodd and Rafiq.
They put on 58 in 23 overs before Hodd was run out. An intended sweep finished up with the ball going to cover and he set off for a run only to be sent back. Before he could reach safety, however, Ryan ten Doeschate’s throw was gathered by Foster to complete the dismissal.
But any hopes Essex might have entertained of bringing the Yorkshire innings to a swift conclusion were soon dashed.
Ryan Sidebottom made sure of that as he and Rafiq put together a stand of 60 which was brought to an end with the last ball of the day when leg-spinner Tom Craddock accepted a return catch to remove Sidebottom for 37, his best knock of the season.