Somerset batsman James Hildreth fell agonisingly short of a century for the MCC today as they took on Yorkshire in the season curtain raiser Champion County match in Abu Dhabi.
Hildreth played what Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie described as an “exceptional” innings of 89 to lead the MCC fightback after they lost England captain Alistair Cook and his former Test opening partner Nick Compton in the space of three overs.
Coming to the wicket in the third over, with the MCC on 7-2, Hildreth had to see off the evergreen Ryan Sidebottom who had picked up Compton caught behind off the first ball of the match and then trapped Cook lbw shortly afterwards for 3.
Hildreth spent almost two and a half hours at the crease, helping to rebuild the MCC innings, firstly sharing in a stand worth 74 with Hampshire’s Michael Carberry in 21 overs.
The partnership was broken by Steven Patterson who had Carberry caught by Lyth for 36. That brought Worcestershire’s Daryl Mitchell (54) out to join Hildreth and the pair put on a further 79 in 19 overs to take the MCC total to 160.
This match is being played as a day/night game with the hotly-debated pink ball and by the time Hildreth had advanced to within 11 runs of what would have been a well-deserved 31st first-class century, the lights had started to take over. Former England player Tim Bresnan found a hint of swing and struck Hildreth on the front pad, winning the resulting lbw appeal.
Hildreth faced 118 balls during his innings and struck 15 boundaries. While he will be disappointed not to have gone on to make a big score in front of the England captain, this was a great start to his new season.
MCC then lost their last six wickets for just 36 runs, finishing on 221 all out. Sidebottom, Jack Brooks, Adil Rashid and first-class debutant Will Rhodes all finished with two wickets apiece.
In reply Yorkshire had reached 82-2 at stumps, with Adam Lyth unbeaten on 53. Durham’s Graham Onions, who opened the attack for the MCC, had to leave the field with a groin injury after just 3.5 overs.