In a match featuring 14 full internationals, two of the supposed ‘support cast’ rose to prominence on the rain-shortened second day of the Specsavers County Championship match between Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire at Trent Bridge.
Alex Lees scored an unbeaten 91 for the defending champions as Yorkshire reached stumps on 170 for four in their first innings, still 91 runs adrift of the home side.
Lees, who scored a century in the corresponding fixture last season, has faced 130 balls and hit 13 fours, so far, whilst Jake Ball continued his excellent start to the campaign, with figures of three for 40.
The England Lions duo both impressed sufficiently to suggest that they may soon be ready for the next stage in their development by hogging the limelight on a short – but engrossing – day of cricket.
With two more of the ‘uncapped brigade’, Jack Brooks and Steven Mullaney, sharing the headlines on the opening day, it was Ball who made an immediate impact at the start of a bitterly cold and blustery morning.
He took three wickets for the MCC in their win over Yorkshire in the champion county fixture in Abu Dhabi in March and has taken a further 16 in the three first class matches he’s played since then.
Rarely though, can Ball have bowled a better spell than the one he produced here. His opening delivery thudded into the pads of Adam Lyth and after a lengthy deliberation umpire Michael Gough sent the batsman on his way.
Ball quickly added two more prized scalps to his ever-burgeoning collection. The 25 year old found enough movement to cause Gary Ballance to tickle through to Chris Read and then followed it up with an even more high-profile dismissal.
The arrival at the crease of Joe Root, number two in the ICC World Test rankings, persuaded even the most reluctant supporter to put down their hoods and peer out from behind their blankets in anticipation.
Within 30 seconds it was all over. Root edged, Riki Wessels at first slip scooped it up and Ball was running away to cover to celebrate.
The fourth of Yorkshire’s ‘big guns’ may also have followed without scoring but Jonny Bairstow’s streaky inside edge, against the same bowler, narrowly missed the stumps and flew just out of reach of the diving wicketkeeper.
Ina period of stability Bairstow helped Lees add 83 for the fourth wicket before he was given out lbw against Harry Gurney, for 29.
Lees, meanwhile, had played a near-faultless hand at the other end, driving his way to an accomplished 50 from only 64 deliveries, with nine fours, and was unbeaten on 69 when heavy rain arrived to wipe out the entire afternoon session.
When play resumed at 5.45pm Lees and his captain, Andrew Gale, extended their fifth wicket partnership beyond 50 but they were nearly parted just before further rain brought an early conclusion.
On 87 Lees nibbled at Gurney and was fortunate to see the ball burst through the gloves of Read, who had to move smartly to his left to try and take the chance.