York welcomes home its county after 129-year absence

The colours of York Cricket Club Getty Images

Yorkshire 208 for 8 (Ballance 54, Miles 4-32, Hannon-Dalby 3-60) against Warwickshire

The last time Yorkshire played at York Kent turned up with eight players, Bobby Peel took nine wickets and one of the spectators, Prince Albert Victor, a grandson of Queen Victoria, was later suspected of being Jack the Ripper. No crowd figure survives from that match played at Wigginton Road, 129 years ago, but you could wager Colin Graves' gross worth that the general enthusiasm did not exceed that shown by spectators on this day of sun and showers at Clifton Park. Neither rain in the morning nor a tumble of Yorkshire wickets in the afternoon could spoil their fun.

There were times, though, when Andrew Gale may not have been as sanguine.as the thousands who streamed through the gates this morning. Having seen his team progress smoothly to 93 for 1 by mid-afternoon the Yorkshire coach was troubled to see them lose five wickets for eight runs with only Gary Ballance's patient 54 preventing a complete subsidence. In the final session, though, as the sun glistened briefly on the meringue roofs of the tented village, David Willey and Steve Patterson mounted a counter-offensive sufficient to disrupt the discipline which had characterised Warwickshire's attack. Willey's dismissal for 46, bowled by a fine ball from Craig Miles which scarcely stroked the off bail, still left Yorkshire on 208 for 8 when the last shower of the day sent everyone home. If Patterson and the tail can scramble another 40 or so, Yorkshire will have a defendable total on what looks an excellent pitch for four-day cricket.

The crowd appreciated it all and enjoyed most of it. Rarely can spectators have contributed so much to a day's play. They applauded happily when Adam Lyth glanced the first four of the match off Oliver Hannon-Dalby; they appreciated the bounce and lift which the Halifax-born bowler then extracted to have Lyth caught behind for 7; they retired to the beer tents when the first of the day's five showers interrupted play. The pavilion bar was as crowded as the Northern Line (Bank Branch) in the rush hour, except that enjoyment rather than profit was the order of the day. But how could this be, one wondered, when only three men and a dog watch championship cricket?

The pitch and surrounds were protected although not without hazard. Despite the groundsmen's best efforts the wind got under the tarpaulins and at one stage there seemed a risk that a young Ebor would be lifted skyward when still clutching a cover and carried off towards Rawcliffe Ings like a latter-day Mary Poppins.

But the rain soon abated and the 45 minutes' cricket before lunch was of high quality. Both Hannon-Dalby and Liam Norwell made good use of the bounce and carry offered by the Clifton Park pitch but were resisted without mishap by Ballance and Will Fraine. The off-drive Ballance played to an over-pitched ball from Hannon-Dalby was the stroke of the morning but the boundary Fraine eased through the covers off Norwell was not far behind. When Jeetan Patel brought himself on at the Shipton End Ballance cut him to backward point for four in his first over and then swept him to the scoreboard in his third.

Yorkshiremen around the ground took their lunch with their side on 60 for 1. The pennants atop the corporate hospitality marquee fluttered in the breeze and the pale sunlight gleamed on the roof beneath which the consumption was apologetically conspicuous. And for something like half an hour after the resumption nothing happened to cause the majority of guests any indigestion. Then Yorkshire collapsed and everyone ordered a large one.

Warwickshire's success was nothing less than they deserved. Having pulled Miles skilfully for four, Fraine attempted to repeat the shot but was brilliantly caught by Matt Lamb, diving low to his left from midwicket. Two balls later Tom Kohler-Cadmore was leg before for a duck when playing a barely descript shot at a straight ball. In the next over Jack Leaning was bowled for nought on his old club ground when Miles speared one between bat and pad.

Patel's attack maintained the pressure, perhaps sensing this was their best chance to justify their decision to field first. Runs were conceded like tips are offered by misers. Only eight had been added to the total when Jonny Tattersall edged Hannon-Dalby to slip. Four balls later Jordan Thompson was leg before when playing too flamboyantly to the same bowler.

Ballance and Willey restored their side's innings with a 44-run stand but the temper of the day's cricket had changed. Having battled for nearly three hours, Ballance was caught on the crease by a delighted Patel and sent on his way by Jeff Evans. Willey and Patterson's uncomplicated strokeplay gave home supporters something to warm them as they made their way back to their hotels.

And all this took place on a day when many cricket fans were following the dramatic events at Taunton. It is an entertaining paradox that a tournament designed to celebrate cricket across the world has resulted in the game returning to localities whose inhabitants never dreamt their grounds would host first-class matches. Newclose, Newport and Nettleworth have all also hosted championship matches in recent weeks yet nowhere has the attraction of watching first-class cricket been exhibited more powerfully than at York.

The crowds filled the bars and when they could find a spare square yard of space they sat with their pints near the boundary edge. Yorkshiremen are infamous for an inordinate desire to get value for money. This is rather a shabby slur; as ever, stereotype is the enemy of thought. Thirty overs were trimmed off this day by rain yet no one complained as they went home after another illustration of the game's secret truth that if you take championship cricket back to the people, the people will turn up to watch it. Three men and a dog? My arse.

Warwickshire 4th innings Partnerships

1st132DP SibleyWMH Rhodes
2nd34DP SibleyRM Yates
3rd15DP SibleySR Hain
4th2AJ HoseSR Hain
5th19AJ HoseMJ Lamb
6th11TR AmbroseAJ Hose
7th2TR AmbroseCN Miles
8th4JS PatelCN Miles