Pyrah's pluck inspires Yorkshire
Yorkshire 364 (Bairstow 107) & 146-4 drew with Kent 537-9 dec. (Coles 103)
He may not have been the first injured player to inspire admiration for his defiance at Headingley, but the determined innings of Richard Pyrah was enough to ensure Yorkshire found enough resolve to prevent defeat in their opening championship match against Kent.
No one was expecting Pyrah to be required, let alone be pressed into action with a broken left hand, when they resumed the final day on 326 for six needing 72 runs to avoid the follow-on. Just 13 overs into the morning session, however, Pyrah walked out to bat sporting a plaster cast with nine wickets down and 32 required to make Kent bat again.
He watched from the non-striker's end while Iain Wardlaw added eight runs from his first over at the crease and lost his off-stump to Charlie Shreck attempting a one-handed swipe to the first ball he faced, completing a spell of four for 16 in 18 balls for Kent's newly recruited seamer.
His efforts were by no means as heroic as Malcolm Marshall's famous 18 minutes batting with a broken thumb in the 1984 Headingley Test, which allowed Larry Gomes to complete his century, before he bowled West Indies to victory with seven wickets. But Pyrah's desire was enough to gain the admiration of Kent's fielders and inspire a response from Yorkshire, who forged a 115-run opening stand when the followed on 173 runs adrift.
"It shows commitment, all the players were all over him and were really pumped and even the Kent guys were really rapped that he made that effort," enthused Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire's coach. "I've seen the X-ray and it's pretty horrific, so for him to make that commitment just shows what sort of guy he is.
"Our guys were on a bit of a high seeing Rich storm out there and the crowd giving him the applause he thoroughly deserved certainly didn't hurt us going into that second innings. The guts he showed were phenomenal and it's what we're about. It's about going out there and getting stuck in - even when it's tough."
Shreck, recruited from Nottinghamshire during the close season, looked set to become the player to define the final day by spreading panic among Yorkshire's lower order during the morning session. He had claimed three wickets in as many overs when Pyrah walked out to steal his limelight.
Inspired by Pyrah's defiance, Yorkshire started their innings with a new resolve although Joe Root was fortunate to survive after reaching just six when he edged Mark Davies behind only for wicketkeeper Geraint Jones to drop a regulation catch at waist height. It was not an error as costly as Jonny Bairstow being dropped on 24 by Ben Harmison at second slip, who went on to score a century on Saturday, but it contributed to Kent running out of time to force the victory.
Steeled by a winter working with England's Performance Programme and a Lions tour to Sri Lanka, Root has progressed into an opener just as pleasing to the eye as former England captain Michael Vaughan, with whom he shares a common start to his cricketing education at Sheffield Collegiate.
He dominated the century opening stand with Joe Sayers, who is more of an accumulator in comparison, and hit 12 boundaries in his 76 before they both fell in an impressive four-over spell from Adam Riley, Kent's emerging off-spinner.
Shreck returned shortly before tea to strangle Andrew Gale down the leg-side and tempt Bairstow into driving straight to cover, but rain and bad light halted play at the interval and Kent were left wondering what might have been with Yorkshire still 27 runs adrift on 146 for four, having lost 76 overs to the weather during the final two days.
"Yorkshire are going to be there or thereabouts this season, so this was always going to be a tough first game," added Rob Key, Kent's captain. "That was one of the best pitches I have played on in championship cricket and the groundstaff deserve a medal for preparing one like that in April."