Jack Brooks took an impressive five-wicket haul in front of a bigger Yorkshire crowd than the one that turned out for the fifth day of the New Zealand Test, but Middlesex’s seamers struck back late in the day to leave the visiting side ahead after day one at Headingley.
Middlesex lost Joe Burns early on, as he was trapped lbw by Brooks to bring Nick Compton to the crease. Alongside Sam Robson, the two discarded England openers set about trying to ensure that the visitors would only be one down at lunch on what looked like a glorious day for batting on a dry pitch. Robson survived a risky single early on in the partnership, but they settled down well to their task.
At one point, Nick Compton went 25 balls without scoring as Yorkshire’s seamers delivered almost immaculate line and length. The run was only broken when a rare poor short ball from Will Rhodes was irresistibly pulled for four. The famously defensive Robson had been made to look like a young Virender Sehwag by Compton’s slow scoring, but he was then made to look like a latter-day Sehwag by Brooks, who got a ball to nip back and hit the middle and off stumps.
The wicket of Robson evened up the morning session, and Yorkshire claimed the advantage in the first over after lunch when Steven Patterson beat Dawid Malan’s outside edge twice before having him caught behind off the final ball for a wicket maiden.
Brooks claimed his third wicket of the match shortly after two o’clock when Neil Dexter was caught behind for a duck. Looking both up and down, all the signs pointed towards a batting day, and yet Middlesex were 92/4. The skill and persistence of the Yorkshire bowling attack, weakened on the morning of the match when Ryan Sidebottom pulled up in the warm-ups, was once again making Headingley a headache for the visiting side.
Glenn Maxwell was brought on as Middlesex looked to rebuild, but captain James Franklin popped an inside edge to short leg where Jack Leaning took a fine catch. Two balls later, John Simpson was heading back to the pavilion after playing forward and being trapped lbw.
The second over of Maxwell’s spell was even more eventful than the double-wicket maiden: Ollie Rayner started the counter-attack with four fours, and Leaning spurned a relatively simple chance at short leg. In Maxwell’s third over, fielders were rendered superfluous as Rayner tried to turn him onto the leg side and was bowled, seemingly through his legs, for 20 off just 14 balls.
Running low on batting partners, Nick Compton felt ready to play some more expansive shots, including an economical pull over midwicket off Brooks. His studious innings was only ended by a stunning piece of slip fielding from young Leaning: a thick edge seemed to be flying over the slips when Leaning leapt to lay a fingertip on it, only to snap the catch up on the second attempt.
There was time for another two wickets before the belated taking of tea. Steven Patterson beat Roland-Jones’ inside edge to reduce Middlesex to 188-9, and the County Championship leaders secured a consolatory batting bonus point before James Harris spooned a Brooks bumper to Gary Ballance at long leg.
England opener Adam Lyth began the Yorkshire reply with an exquisite extra-cover drive that split the off-side fielders. Watching Lyth and Lees opening together again at Headingley had a “retro” 2014-feel about it, but a big partnership failed to materialise as Ollie Rayner had Lyth caught at second slip and then repeated the feat three balls later to dismiss Lees off Tim Murtagh.
Ballance played an uncomfortable innings, and was out lbw for one playing all around a full swinging ball from Murtagh. Andrew Gale’s strong backward cut was in evidence again, but he was also out lbw to yet another pitched-up delivery, this time from James Harris.
Middlesex’s seamers were accurate and aggressive with their lengths, and they extracted enough seam movement to get the better of many fine batsmen with the new ball. Jonny Bairstow and Leaning did manage to recover the situation and reach stumps, though, to leave the Yorkshire innings in a delicate, but not yet perilous position going into day two.