August 10, 2013

T20 disappointment but Yorks still on track

Defeat after defeat in the FLt20 wasn't encouraging but Yorkshire are well placed for the business end of the Championship

So, the FLt20 is over; for us, any road. Even for one who doesn't care for the format, it has been depressing to see defeat follow defeat. We all know that the habit of losing can become ingrained.

The one bright moment was inadvertently provided by Sky's teletext service, which reported Yorkshire's 'poultry total' against Leicestershire. Well, we were playing the Foxes.

For this little gem I am indebted to a sharp-eyed poster on the Corridor of Uncertainty forum.

Speaking of little gems, I had a lovely day at Stamford Bridge CC where Yorkshire 2nds were playing MCC Young Cricketers in a three-day Championship fixture. It was a blissful day under an Adelaide-blue sky, the only sounds the distant drone of light aircraft, the traditional leather on willow, the calls and shouts of the players, and smatterings of applause from a contented and expert audience.

The cricket was of a good standard, easy to watch and to enjoy. This is the very heart of our game, in my opinion, the best we have, the hope for the future, and I enjoyed this day much more than one I spent, hot and uncomfortable, at the Old Trafford Test.

A fine traditional venue awaited the return of the County Championship from its T20 exile for Yorkshire's match against Derbyshire. Over the years I have visited Chesterfield on some bleak days, but in high summer there is nowhere more beautiful than Queen's Park. Not Arundel, not Cheltenham College, not anywhere… and don't even begin to think Tunbridge Wells!

For one man, if Chesterfield doesn't feature large in his old-age memories, he will have had one hell of a career. Alex Lees, stepping into Joe Root's shoes, had already scored a century at Lord's. He picks his grounds, this young left-hander. Here, on a well grassed pitch, but against one of the friendlier attacks, he batted with unruffled calm for hour after hour until his captain called him in at 275 not out.

By the end of the third day our four-pronged pace attack had already seen us to an innings victory. I felt sorry for the Derbyshire faithful who attended the game in large numbers, but they now seemed resigned to an early return to Division Two. So much depends on a good start to the season.

However, Derbyshire have since done us a favour, and thrown themselves a lifeline, by beating Sussex at Hove. This 'little county' has long produced and developed a disproportionately large number of good players, and I hope they survive the drop. Perhaps their next product of note will be mature 19-year-old Peter Burgoyne, who impressed with bat and ball (offspin) and played a big role against Sussex, too, as did young Chesterfield boy Ben Slater, a left-hand opening bat.

Meanwhile, back at Headingley, Yorkshire took on Warwickshire. A heavyweight contest. Good cricket, tough cricket, in front of a big and expectant Friday crowd. That first day was superb, as Gary Ballance once again steadied a wobbling innings and Boyd Rankin demonstrated why England are interested in him.

On Saturday it was the turn of the Yorkshire attack, even more potent than the Warwickshire quartet. Laurie Evans held the innings together against the probing accuracy of Steve Patterson and the pace of Liam Plunkett. Newly capped by Yorkshire, alongside Jack Brooks, Liam is demonstrating how and why he came to be picked for England eight years ago, when he was only 20. He is in his prime, now.

The game was turned by a ninth-wicket partnership between Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel. A likely lead of 80 for Yorkshire became a small first-innings deficit, momentum had been lost, and the Warwickshire bowlers were quick to take advantage. For the first time since the Sussex game, back in April, our boys looked baffled and impotent, but the same rain that saved England at Old Trafford arrived in Leeds, to Yorkshire's advantage.

The Championship now takes another break. It's August, the kids are on holiday, and there's no first-class cricket to watch. Who are these people who run our game?

When hostilities resume, near the end of the month, many of us believe Yorkshire have more to fear from the ECB than from Notts or Durham, Sussex or Middlesex. As well as yet another series of T20s and ODIs against the Australians, there are Lions games against Bangladesh A.

And that means no Ballance for the key game against Notts, as we strive for the main prize. With nearly all our players English through and through, and the vast majority of them still Yorkshire-born, our county continues to support England as well as any other. Only the other day we provided no fewer than five players to the England Under-19 XI that played Pakistan at Sleaford. Our boys took all five Pakistani wickets that fell, and Will Rhodes made a century in a losing cause.

England might be accused of biting the hand that feeds it.

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