Pyrah inspires stunning fightback
Lancashire 304 for 7 v Yorkshire
Whatever forces were at work here on July 21, 1981, when Bob Willis completed the legendary Ashes comeback set in motion by Ian Botham, seemed somehow to revisit the Leeds ground 30 years on as the Roses match witnessed a similarly unlikely turnaround.
On a day when references to that iconic moment might have appeared forced, no contrivance was necessary at all. Yorkshire, on the floor at 45 for 8 in reply to Lancashire's 328, recovered to 239 all out after Rich Pyrah had given a fair impression of Botham on his way to a maiden Championship ton and Ryan Sidebottom had metamorphosed into Graham Dilley.
Together they broke the ground record for ninth wicket partnerships, adding 154 in 30 overs to raise the possibility, somehow, that Yorkshire might even go on to win this match. Sidebottom made 52, completing the third half-century of his career and his second this season; Pyrah was finally out for 117. Both men were not only applauded from the field but cheered, as a good-sized crowd briefly recalled the days when games such as this would fill the place.
It inspired Yorkshire, certainly, creating a momentum that they built on to some effect in the hour that remained, during which Tim Bresnan, who had rushed up from Lord's in time to stride out at No. 11, removed both Lancashire openers, and Ajmal Shahzad struck with the first ball of the final over to leave the visitors uncomfortably placed at 33 for 3.
Pyrah confessed afterwards that he was unaware that it was such a significant anniversary but acknowledged he had done something that will also last long in the memory.
"It was a special day to make my maiden hundred in the Championship, especially after we'd been 45 for 8," he said. "It is always nice to score a century but to get one in those circumstances even better, getting us back into the game.
"Ryan is a good batsman, who knows his game, and we just set out to be positive, to try to unsettle their bowlers. The new ball always does a bit off the pitch here and on these wickets you are never really in and they had bowled pretty well to get us to 45 for 8. But we knew if we went after them we had a chance.
"It has given us a bit of momentum and if we can get among the wickets early on in the morning, then who knows? We are definitely right in the game."
And yet it had looked impossible that Yorkshire would be. Soon after lunch, after a batting performance remarkable only for being so woeful, they trailed by 283, with two wickets left. The follow-on beckoned and, on the evidence seen, you wondered if the game would limp into a third day. Five of the wickets had fallen to the seamer Kyle Hogg, who twice took wickets with consecutive deliveries. The ball swung and seamed, as it had on the first morning, but Yorkshire did not help themselves with some careless shots.
Joe Root got a good ball that he nibbled at, but Jacques Rudolph, of whom much had been expected on his return to the county, thick-edged a square drive to gully. Andrew Gale's first ball seemed to take him by surprise and Jonny Bairstow fell in similar fashion before Gary Ballance made a simple error of judgment with his first ball, shouldering arms.
Adil Rashid might have been a shade unlucky with his verdict when Tom Smith appealed for leg before but Shahzad paid the price for fishing at one outside off stump and Anthony McGrath again perished to a shot he may wish he had not played as he was caught at second slip.
At this point Bresnan, discarded from the Test side, was not even at the ground. But then it all turned around in a manner that was scarcely credible. Pyrah announced his intentions early by pulling Smith for six and rushed to 26 off 22 balls but even so, you suspected, nothing more than a flurry of defiance was taking place.
In these circumstances it is not unusual for a bowling unit, on the brink of completing a demolition, to subconsciously begin easing down, allowing the tail to wag to some effect, but finally finishing the job. This time, though, the boundaries kept coming; and coming.
So frequently, indeed, that when when Pyrah completed his half-century by hooking Glen Chapple over long leg for his second six, with Sidebottom still with him on 27, they had added 94 in just 14 overs and a sense of anticipation was beginning to animate the crowd.
Pyrah could clearly feel it too and rose to the occasion. The follow-on target, impossibly distant at 45 for 8, suddenly was only 40 runs away. If Bresnan made it, surely these two needed only to keep going a little longer to guarantee it would be passed. In the event, their colleague was on the ground, freshened up and padded up, some time before he was required.
In fact, the follow-on was saved comfortably and spectacularly, Pyrah pulling Hogg for his third six. But more was to come. Sidebottom, who had played some attractive and thoroughly authentic shots, completed his half-century to enormous applause and Pyrah's hundred was within touching distance when Chapple at last separated the pair.
He might have been stranded, three short, but once he saw Bresnan striding towards him he must have felt fate was on his side. With no sign of nerves, having passed his previous best in the competition when he reached 88, Pyrah quickly finished the job, a push towards mid-off against Chapple bringing him a single, which he completed with a leap in the air.
Lancashire's lead once Pyrah fell was down to 89, still a good one but small enough to make a close match at least a possibility, and 122 in front overnight leaves them vulnerable should three down quickly turn to five down in the morning. There is no papering over the fact that 45 for 8 was pretty shabby. Yet somehow it felt like it was Yorkshire's day.