June 4, 2013

County cricket 2013

Yorkshire's marvellous May

Dave Morton
Liam Plunkett celebrates a wicket against his former employers, Durham v Yorkshire, County Championship, Division One, Chester-le-Street, 1st day, April 24, 2013
Liam Plunkett was the matchwinner against Warwickshire  © Getty Images
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God is a Yorkshireman, or at least a supporter. On the night before the Warwickshire game, in a seedy Brummie hotel, a young man is kneeling by his bed.

"We'd like some heavy cloud cover tomorrow, please, if it's not too much trouble. And I need to win the toss, too, of course."

"I know about t' toss, lad. I'm omniscient, which means not stupid. Call 'tails'. Owt else?"

"Well, warm sun next day when we're batting, then perhaps….er… cloud again on Friday?"

"No problem at all, Andrew, but I've had t' farmers on to me, and they want some rain Wednesday morning. Give your lads a bit of a lie-in, play start about two. Okay? Should be long enough to bowl them out."

And so it came to pass.

Yorkshire were excellent. Disciplined bowling came from the seamers, with Liam Plunkett providing the cutting edge, and Warwickshire folded without much resistance, apart from captain Jim Troughton. Yorkshire's close-catching was outstanding.

In friendlier batting conditions on the second day, we saw solid efforts from most of the top order, with the best coming from Gary Ballance who (great for the lad himself, worrying for the supporters) must be impressing every selector who watches him this season. Adil Rashid too continued his good start to the season.

Warwickshire's two England-hopeful bowlers did not shine, though in fairness Chris Wright did not have the best of fortune. Their stand-out performer was Kiwi Jeetan Patel, who bowled beautifully. Had anyone from the New Zealand camp seen this, he must surely have played in the second Test.

The third day was Friday and, with awful weather forecast for the Saturday, I would have declared overnight. But Gale went on, past the 350 bonus-point, past Rashid's century, past 400. Madness.

But he was right. The returning Tim Bresnan got a wicket first ball and Warwickshire were 9 for 3 at lunch.

The afternoon's play was one of the most uplifting Yorkshire sessions I have ever watched. We have a lad in our team called Steve Patterson. "Isn't that the bloke who played one game for England at Headingley and bowled a load of rubbish?" I am repeatedly asked by opposing supporters.

"No," I patiently reply. "That was PattINson, a roof-tiler from Melbourne who played a few games for Notts then, out of the blue, got picked for England. This is Steve PattERson, known as Dead-man or Deaders, and he's Yorkshire all the way through. And he can bowl."

This day, Deaders bowled over after over of unrelenting, tall, medium-fast, hit-the-seam perfection. The man is a machine. Brezzy and Ryan Sidebottom were just as good in their contrasting styles, and Warwickshire failed again. And we caught well again.

[Meanwhile, down at Lord's, Jonny B and Joe Root top-scored for England in a disappointing first innings. In the second, Root and Trott staged their own private Yorkshire v Warwickshire contest as they repeatedly tried to run each other out, but our Joe finished top scorer. Neither was run out, somehow, and England won.]

How does a team go from being County Champions to being rubbish? I wish I knew. It happened to us in 2002; it happened to Lancashire last season; and it has happened to Notts as well, in between.

The Warwickshire supporters are some of the nicest you will ever meet. I hope their team will turn it round. We were made so welcome there. It's a strange chemistry, this game of winning and losing, confidence and crisis. I suppose that's what these sports psychologists are for, to find the elusive formula and pass it on.

******

A couple of weeks earlier we had played Derbyshire, at Headingley, widely seen (then) as the game between the two main relegation candidates. Not surprisingly, a West Indian left-hander made a double century for the visitors.

What was surprising was that it was not Shiv Chanderpaul but a big lad called Chesney Hughes. The great Guyanese nurdler made hardly any. I had never seen Hughes before, or if I had, not for long. His was a name I knew, a man I had read about. A guy reckoned to be a talented underachiever.

His innings of 270 was a pleasure to watch, and the openly expressed joy in his own achievement was refreshing. Every Yorkshire player shook Chesney's hand as they left the field. What a wonderful moment for a young man. And what a civilised sport this county cricket is.

In the end, in an unexpected finish, Yorkshire won the game. It was so unexpected I wasn't there. Joe and Jonny had earlier scored 400 between them against Derbyshire's toothless, Palladino-less attack, but it was Yorkshire newcomer Jack Brooks who won over the sceptics (myself included) and won the cricket match too. Bowlers win matches.

Better was to come for Yorkshire. Much better. Read on!

Adil Rashid ended day two unbeaten on 68, Warwickshire v Yorkshire, County Championship, Division One, Edgbaston, 2nd day, May, 16, 2013
Adil Rashid is in the batting form of his careeer  © Getty Images
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******

[Elsewhere, Durham chased down 184 inside 23 overs against a star-studded Notts attack. "It would never have happened without Twenty20," we were confidently informed. "In the old days they would have just shaken hands and walked off."

Well, at Hove in 1959, Yorkshire were set 218 to win, not just the game but the County Championship, in what turned out to be 28.3 overs. We got them for five wickets, never in doubt, and Ian Thomson (England bowler) had 10-1-87-1. So that's another good theory ruined.]

******

Next up at Headingley were Somerset, and Yorkshire were soon in trouble, batting first on a grassy-looking pitch. We were rescued by Ballance (23 years old, going on 35) and born-again Rashid. He went on to 180 glorious runs. A joy to behold, an amalgam of Rohan Kanhai and Kevin Pietersen, both in full flow. 75 for 4 had become 505 for 9 declared.

Somerset used up half a season's luck getting through to the close of the second day with only one wicket down. It could have been six, so often did Trescothick and Compton play and miss. But these things go in cycles, and we had had luck with decisions in the vital part of the Derbyshire game.

Rain eventually came to Somerset's aid. Bowled out in the first innings and following on, they finished with six down. Brooks, injured, and Patterson replacing him in the attack, between them took 6 for 26. But Tresco stood firm, a thorn in Yorkshire's flesh, as so often before. Good player. Match drawn, but a wonderful confidence-boost for the White Rose.

******

Then came the trip to Birmingham, following which Yorkshire's 1st XI had a week off, a chance for me to watch some 2nd XI action. Just a couple of games, Lancashire v Yorkshire at Aigburth and Lancashire v Durham at West Houghton. Really enjoyable, both, I love watching these kids play, and I've made a note of a couple of names…..

I took in a day at the Headingley Test. Unfortunately for me I chose the first day and, by the scheduled close, I was already back home with my money-refund letter in the post. Disappointing, but it could have been worse. It could have been Yorkshire rained off.

The following day I watched on TV as Joe Root made a maiden Test century in front of his own supporters, including a century stand with Jonny B. Wonderful.

******

Taunton has long been one of my favourite away venues, though not a place where Yorkshire have enjoyed much success in recent seasons. This time, we travelled in hope, given our recent good form and Somerset's surprising problems with the bat.

As it was, rain washed out the first day. Yorkshire had the better of the subsequent action, with Adam Lyth striking a stylish century and Rashid a seemingly inevitable one, unbeaten again, to take his first-class average into the 2.5 x Bradman realm of fantasy.

Somerset only just saved the follow-on, with good contributions from Trescothick and Hildreth against a Yorkshire attack missing several first-choicers. Indeed, you could pick a very strong XI out of the players missing - England duty or injured - from the two counties.

Good news for Yorkshire was the bowling of Rashid, wicketless but unlucky, and of Moin Ashraf. Moin started badly, looking like a 2nd XI player out of his comfort zone, but excellent spells later in the day and on the following morning suggested he is a class act waiting in the wings for his chance.

We now go to Scarborough to face Notts, and from there to Lord's. Two big games in the context of the title race, and two games to which I am looking forward hugely. I have been to Lord's on several occasions for Test matches, but this will be my first visit for a county game.

Finally, I am not unaware that there have been some YB40 games as well. Has anyone seen how Yorkshire are getting on this year? I can't seem to find the results anywhere.

Dave Morton, now retired, grew up worshipping the great Yorkshire team of the 1950s

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Posted by SaracensBob on (June 4, 2013, 22:40 GMT)

Yorkshire have been uniformly excellent . Their top-order is producing and they bat deep so they are consistently gaining batting bonus points and high first innings totals. The bowling unit is solid and has a cutting edge - thus bowling points are gained and close matches are won. The squad is strong enough to perform well when Bairstow, Root and Bresnan are on England duty. Fielding has been of high standard. I'm so impressed that I have £20 e/w on Yorks to be champions and I reckon my money is safe. Yorks are doing everything that Warwicks did last year. As a Warwicks man I can only wonder that we might not be a happy ship this season. Rumour is that Dougie Brown was not the dressing room's choice to replace The King of Spain in the Edgbaston hot-seat ... I can't think of any other reason why what is essentially the same squad as last year should be performing so poorly.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dave Morton
Dave Morton grew up watching and worshipping the powerful Yorkshire team of the 1950s. However, he left Yorkshire in his early teens and subsequently played nearly all his club cricket in the Manchester area. Now retired, from work and (sadly) from cricket, he spends his summers following Yorkshire in the County Championship, and his winters invariably include an England tour. Favourite ground in the world: Scarborough.

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