|Ground:||The Rose Bowl, Southampton|
|Scorecard:||Hampshire v Yorkshire|
|Event:||LV County Championship 2012|
DateLine: 14th July 2012
Hampshire v Yorkshire, Day 3, at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton
Close of play: Yorkshire (350/9 dec) v Hampshire 39/0.
The 21-year-old Joe Root played an innings worthy of the great traditions of Yorkshire cricket as he amassed his highest first-class score of 222 not out and almost single-handedly rescued Yorkshire from disaster. The first century was for the most part a superb fighting innings in adverse conditions; the rest became an exhibition of magnificent strokeplay and judgement as he reaped the harvest in full. It was an innings that showed beyond doubt that this man has the potential to go on to a highly successful international career.
Less than two hours had been possible for play on the first two days, during which time Yorkshire, battling seamer-friendly conditions, had reached 83 for three wickets. Root, who had opened, was still there with 46, and he continued to hold the innings together while a succession of partners proved unequal to the bowlers and conditions. He reached his fifty, which came off 88 balls, in the third over of the day, with a characteristic glide to the third-man boundary.
Soon after that he lost his overnight partner, Gary Ballance, who reached to drive a ball from James Tomlinson that moved away outside his off stump, and was well caught low down at second slip by Liam Dawson. Again the bowlers found a great deal of swing and seam movement early on. Within fifty minutes the rain returned, forcing an early lunch with Yorkshire on 103 for four, Root now with 59.
When the game started at 1.45, Anthony McGrath edged the fifth ball, from Mascarenhas to the keeper and departed for 5. Rich Pyrah did not score, misjudging a drive and sending a rather weak return catch to the same bowler, and Yorkshire were now looking bad on 108 for six. Without Root, it would have been a disaster. With Azeem Rafiq as his new partner, Root briefly began to look more aggressive, but also less secure; however, seeing Rafiq batting with more confidence than any of his predecessors, he settled down again to the sound method that had brought him so much success.
Conditions were now somewhat easier for the batsmen, although by no means ideal, and Rafiq took advantage of the improvement with some determined and positive hitting. Then suddenly in the late twenties he reined himself in, and on 29 (39 balls) allowed himself unaccountably to be bowled without playing a shot to a straight ball from Kabir Ali that bowled him. The stand had added 53 runs at more than four an over.
Yorkshire had a long tail, with Steven Patterson in at nine. Root now had 86, and again he looked to speed up his scoring, as Yorkshire's last three could not have given him any sense of security. Patterson, however, presented a solid bat to the bowlers as his partner moved through the nineties until on 99 a fortuitous overthrow gave him two extra runs. He had faced 176 balls in his fourth first-class century, a wholly admirable innings.
Patterson continued to play his role nobly, although by now the bowlers were getting nothing from the old ball, and by tea the pair had added 55 runs, the total now being 216 for seven. Afterwards Root, seeing the ball like a football, took advantage of the improved batting conditions and reached 150 just before the second new ball became due. It was of limited value to the bowlers when it came, though, but Patterson, after playing so well in a partnership that eventually realized 121, forsook his patient role, tried a few risky shots and eventually paid the penalty, caught at the wicket off Tomlinson for 37.
With 'guest player' Steve Harmison in, Root immediately passed his previous best first-class score of 161. Harmison was soon caught at the wicket for 2, but as Moin Ashraf came in the unselfish Root was more interested in gathering as many runs as possible rather than playing safe to ensure he carried his bat. He drove Ali for a straight six, said to be only his second in first-class cricket, and followed it with another over midwicket later in the same over, which cost 21 runs altogether. In the next over he gained his reward, a magnificent double-century, which took him 260 balls. His second century had taken him 84 balls.
He then stepped up another gear, hammering the hapless bowlers and piercing the deeply set field with ease. A difficult chance in the outfield was dropped, the first chance he had given during his innings. When Yorkshire reached another batting point at 350, of which Root had scored over 63 per cent, the team declared with nine wickets down, thus depriving Root of the honour of carrying his bat; not that it appeared to bother him at all. He had faced 270 balls and hit 26 fours and three sixes. His favourite scoring area was again between cover point and third man, but he also played the pull frequently and successfully on the second day. His last 50 runs came off 27 balls. Of the bowlers, Tomlinson took four wickets and Tomlinson three.
Harmison began with three wides in his first four deliveries, and even when he was on target the batsmen, Jimmy Adams and Neil McKenzie, played him with reasonable comfort. Patterson was more accurate and economical, but the batsmen were never in serious trouble and saw out the day safely. A result is virtually impossible in this match, and the final day will be a battle either for more bonus points or against the weather.
(Article: Copyright © 2012 John Ward)