ONE MAN’s loss is another man’s gain.
When Ryan Sidebottom was ruled out of this match through injury, thus denying him one last Headingley hurrah before retirement, it meant that someone else would profit from his misfortune and come into the side.
That man was Matthew Fisher, and the 19-year-old took his chance on the opening day against relegated Warwickshire.
On his first County Championship appearance for just over two years, Fisher returned figures of 5-54 from 15.1 overs as Warwickshire scored 219 after winning the toss, Yorkshire replying with 62-1.
After suffering his own fair share of injuries in his short career, with three hamstring tears stalling his progress, Fisher is determined to make up for lost time as he strives to become a permanent fixture in the Yorkshire pace attack
This performance will have done him no harm, the right-armer numbering former England batsman Ian Bell among his victims.
The key wicket of Bell, adjudged lbw for 51, was an important breakthrough that ended a seventh-wicket stand of 96 with Jeetan Patel, who top-scored with 100 as the pair rescued their team from 49-6.
Fisher trapped Patel lbw too before ending the innings – appropriately enough, given the circumstances of his selection – by bowling the Warwickshire pace bowler Ryan Sidebottom, surely the most improbable namesake in sporting history.
Fisher, whose previous Championship appearance was against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl in September 2015, had only played limited-overs cricket this summer, taking seven wickets in eight List A and three T20 appearances combined.
His potential has been evident for some time; ever since, in fact, he made history in 2013 by becoming, aged 15 years and 212 days, the youngest post-war county cricketer when he appeared in a 40-over match against Leicestershire at Scarborough.
When Fisher became Yorkshire’s sixth-youngest Championship debutant aged 17, Tim Bresnan was moved to declare of him: “I think he is going to be an unbelievable bowler.”
Fisher has since impressed for England U-19s, and both county and country have high hopes for the York-born player in the coming years.
Wickets in this game were important not just from a personal point of view, of course, but also in terms of the relegation picture, with Yorkshire having gone into their penultimate match of the season fifth in Division One, two places and one point above the relegation zone.
With a trip to champions Essex to come next week, they will be keen to put some breathing space between themselves and fellow strugglers Middlesex and Somerset by beating a Warwickshire side who have lost eight of their 12 Championship games, including five by an innings.
In glorious sunshine yesterday, the morning session suggested that they would not have too much difficulty in achieving their aim, with all the bowlers making use of the assistance on offer, which was just sufficient to ensure that batting was never straightforward on a decent pitch.
Warwickshire rallied through Bell and Patel, and then again through a ninth-wicket stand of 66 between Patel and Boyd Rankin, only for Yorkshire to end the day handily placed, 157 runs behind.
As well as recalling Fisher, Yorkshire made further changes to the team that drew at Surrey last week. Seamer Ben Coad returned in place of Azeem Rafiq, as Yorkshire went into the match without a specialist spinner, and West Indian batsman Kraigg Brathwaite made his debut in place of the Australian Shaun Marsh and Adam Lyth returned after paternity leave in place of Tom Kohler-Cadmore.
Jack Brooks, who took his first five-wicket haul of the season at the Oval, landed the first blows here when he had Dominic Sibley caught behind slashing at a wide out-swinger and Jonathan Trott superbly caught on the drive by second slip Lyth, who dived across first slip Alex Lees in spectacular fashion.
The opening spells of Brooks and Coad were excellent and probing, and Fisher captured his first wicket when debutant Liam Banks edged behind a fine ball that nipped away to reduce Warwickshire to 29-3.
Matthew Lamb pushed at one from Steve Patterson and was caught behind, and the visitors slipped to 49-6 when Coad had Tim Ambrose caught at second slip by Lyth before yorking Alex Thomson as he tried to dig out a yorker into the leg-side.
Bell and Patel counter-attacked after lunch, raising a fifty stand in 63 balls as Yorkshire’s momentum was temporarily halted.
But Fisher trapped Bell and Chris Wright in quick succession to put a better gloss on the afternoon from Yorkshire’s perspective, one in which they conceded 142 runs in 34 overs.
After Fisher wrapped up the innings by removing Patel and Sidebottom, with Patel’s century his third in first-class cricket and his second against Yorkshire, Lyth and Brathwaite built on his efforts. Lyth pulled a couple of sixes in an attractive cameo, while Brathwaite hit three fours before edging Wright to first slip just before stumps.