Glamorgan 330 and 161 for 4 (B Root 77*, Cook 57*) lead Yorkshire 193 by 298 runs
The most famous snow stoppage in English cricket, in Buxton in June 1975, has become so romanticised in retelling that it would be no surprise to read one day that sleigh bells were magically heard in the pavilion and everybody feasted on chestnuts and mulled wine.
Whatever you may be told 50 years from now about the sudden snow storm that engulfed Headingley, the truth is that it was a suitably miserable conclusion to one of the coldest, most disconsolate mornings in Yorkshire cricket’s history.
Both Yorkshire new-ball bowlers off the field, injured during the second day of the Championship season; a wicketless morning as Glamorgan carefully plotted an unexpected victory against a debilitated attack; and gaping, empty stands because of the Covid-19 restrictions that implied the futility of it all. Wherever in the world that cricket was being enjoyed, in whatever format, at whatever level, it had to be better than this.
The Buxton blizzard was special because it was snow in June, abnormal even in the Peak District. It hit the news bulletins and somehow captured the gentle romanticism of county cricket played on outgrounds: spectators and officials were photographed going about their business in overcoats. Snow at Headingley on April 10, 2021, came in a different world. It merely contended that Championship cricket so early in the year, with 14 English professionals away at the IPL and other international players rested, is at best an exercise in optimism and at worst a commitment that is unsustainable.
Bizarrely, Headingley existed in its own particularly hostile micro-climate – an international ground closed not just to the public but, it appeared, to pleasure itself. After two intriguing, hard-fought days in defiance of the conditions, it was a desperate shame.
Beyond the confines of the ground, what snow there was disappeared in an instant. A few miles away, the skies remained clear. There were cyclists in abundance. Walkers and golfers were braving the cold. Cricketers were about to take to the field for the start of the season in the local leagues. Old timers passed on tips about wearing the first of two sweaters back to front to keep out the cold; golf handwarmers lurked in pockets; and there would be a few late cry-offs for unconvincing reasons.
The Headingley forecast had been for a “light shower day” with rain creeping in by late afternoon. The reality was a one-hour burst of snow and hail as the players left the field for lunch with temperatures plummeting to 4C, one of the coldest days ever recorded in Championship history.
Within minutes, the outfield was bathed in white, the only sport conducted by a couple of excitable crows indulging in a spot of body surfing. Umpires Paul Baldwin and Russell Warren inspected soon after the snow had departed at 2.30pm and abandoned play an hour later at 3.30pm. Unlike Buxton, nobody much fancied an idealised photograph.
Glamorgan rued their luck. They had batted through the morning session in the shape of Billy Root and Chris Cooke, adding 98 to stretch their lead to 298. Root seems to be making a belated bid to be regarded as the most sensible brother. They have only won at Headingley once before, in 1999, although they have triumphed surprisingly often in powerful Yorkshire eras at the long-abandoned venues at Bramall Lane and Middlesbrough.
Yorkshire would have been privately relieved when the snow came. They awoke to confirmation that Matt Fisher, with an abdominal injury and Ben Coad, with a chest muscle injury, would not be fit to bowl for the rest of the match, the extent of their injuries not yet confirmed. The frontline seam attack was left to Steve Patterson, a 37-year-old captain, and the South African Duanne Olivier, whose own match preparations amounted to 20 days’ compulsory quarantine evenly divided between the Maldives and West Yorkshire.
Patterson often comes into his own on hangdog days like these, but his persistence posed no threat. Olivier, so unpredictable that some Yorkshire cricket followers imagine that he is the living embodiment of the “South African variant”, also did little of note. The oohs and aahs rested with the offspinner, Dom Bess, who had a rejected appeal for a catch at slip when Billy Root was 43 and who passed Chris Cooke’s outside edge on several occasions. Long before the first flurry of snow, however, both batsmen had secured half-centuries.
With Yorkshire in such a plight, starting the day with Joe Root’s offspin – he had almost bowled his brother Billy in the final over on the previous evening – might have been an imaginative gambit. But Patterson is not that sort of captain and Andrew Gale is not that sort of coach.
Yorkshire regard themselves as Championship contenders, but they have been ordinary. In this most glacial of Aprils the #GaleOut hashtags are prematurely appearing on social media, long before the apple blossom.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps