THERE was no more ironic sight at Scarborough on Wednesday than that of a fielder wearing a white floppy sunhat with the number 70 on his back.
Jack Brooks is one of the more instantly recognisable figures in county cricket, even without the number and the headwear, and his presence injected a touch of pathos into the third day’s play at North Marine Road.
As Somerset moved into a strong position, holding a lead of 289, Brooks – Yorkshire’s leading wicket-taker for the past three seasons – was acting as a substitute for his team-mate and former flat-mate Liam Plunkett.
Plunkett walked off with a groin injury shortly after lunch, having been Yorkshire’s best bowler hitherto in the game, with the hosts already a bowler down after Ryan Sidebottom sustained a side injury on day one.
But with substitute fielders unable to bowl – one mentions that purely for the benefit of the untutored – there was nothing that captain Tim Bresnan could do but rotate a two-man seam attack that featured himself and Ben Coad, with Brooks consigned to patrolling the outfield.
Harry Brook filled in with a few overs of medium-pace, and Adil Rashid and Adam Lyth provided spin variety.
But Yorkshire were effectively playing with nine men – plus Brooks and fellow substitute Ryan Gibson – on a day when grey skies stuck to the ground like thunder flies to skin, rendering Brooks’s sunhat gloriously superfluous.
If there was mitigation for Yorkshire, therefore, on this greyest of days, with 18.3 overs lost to the light in the evening session, the reality was that they were up against it even before Plunkett joined Sidebottom on the treatment table.
When Plunkett left the field at 2.10pm, after completing his sixth over of the Somerset second innings, the visitors were 43-0 and led by 98.
There had not been too many alarms for opening batsmen Marcus Trescothick and Eddie Byrom, who had laid a strong platform as their side seek their first victory in this year’s tournament at the eighth attempt, and the mood among a partisan 2,999 crowd was suitably pensive.
But if anyone was likely to get something from the pitch and exploit its pace and bounce, it was Plunkett, who captured 4-73 in the first innings on his first Championship appearance since last September.
Instead, neither he nor Sidebottom – who would also have been extremely useful in the gloomy conditions – were able to influence events, a bitter blow to Bresnan and his men.
The day had started with Plunkett at the crease with bat in hand after Yorkshire resumed on 159-7 in their first innings, trailing by 109. The pace bowler had five runs to his name and leg-spinner Adil Rashid 30, and there was a damp feel to the morning after Tuesday’s rain.
Both batsmen struck early boundaries off Craig Overton, Rashid cutting him firmly and Plunkett cover-driving him fluently. But Plunkett was undone by a fine ball with the total on 180, bowled by Lewis Gregory with one that nipped back appreciably from the Peasholm Park end.
Yorkshire fell to 203-9 when Coad played back to Tim Groenewald and edged to Jim Allenby at first slip, and the innings ended when Rashid uppercut Gregory to Overton at third-man, having top-scored with 49.
Somerset’s first innings lead was 55, emphasising the importance of the 10th-wicket stand of 61 between Groenewald and Overton on the first day.
Ditto the significance of Bresnan’s drop of Overton at first slip off Plunkett when that stand was worth only eight. A fine fielder and normally such a safe pair of hands, Bresnan can be forgiven the odd blemish.
Another followed yesterday when he dropped Byrom on 24 at first slip off Plunkett, the score at the time being 37-0.
Trescothick rubbed salt into Bresnan’s wounds by off-driving him to the boundary and then cutting him firmly for four.
But the former England batsman perished with the total on 53, Coad having him caught at second slip by Adam Lyth.
Somerset slipped to 80-2 when Brook, the 18-year-old batsman, bowled Byrom to claim his maiden first-class wicket. It was a teasing delivery that struck the base of off stump.
Tim Rouse, a 21-year-old on Championship debut, and James Hildreth lifted Somerset to 140-2 at tea, reaching fine half-centuries in the evening session.
Hildreth’s first fifty of the season came from 82 balls with five fours, while Rouse’s took 97 deliveries and included three boundaries. The pair added 144 in 34 overs before Rouse dragged on to Coad while attempting a firm hit through the covers, almost the last action of a day in which Hildreth ended on 85 from 111 balls with six fours.