Lyth, Bairstow find form
Yorkshire 336 for 5 (Lyth 159*, Bairstow 118) lead Leicestershire 320 by 16 runs
There was a reminder of golden eras for both Yorkshire and Leicestershire on the second day of this match. The Fernie Suite in the Grace Road pavilion was being renamed in honour of Ray Illingworth, who played for both teams in seasons when they were powers in the land, and the great man turned up for the occasion.
Now 80, Illingworth clearly has deep affection for his two counties, but he was Yorkshire president until last March and there is no secret where his heart lies. So one might infer that he will have greatly enjoyed watching Adam Lyth bat in Yorkshire's first innings. The opener has had a thin time of it this summer, first finding it difficult to break into Andrew Gale's team and then making just 86 runs in five innings before the current match.
So Lyth's career-best 159 not out against Leicestershire was a triumph of temperament as well as craft, and his celebratory skip when he reached three figures evinced obvious delight. And what may have pleased Illingworth just as much as the fact of Lyth's achievement was the manner of it: the opener can be a fluent strokemaker and reached his half-century in just 76 balls with eight fours; yet when Yorkshire were stumbling on 112 for 3, Lyth drew in his horns and grafted for a further 120 deliveries to reach his hundred. He constructed an innings around the requirements of his side.
But Lyth was not the only visiting batsman to reach three figures on a day when the architecture of this match began to take on a slightly clearer shape. For most of the last two sessions of the day he was partnered by Jonny Bairstow, who has probably been told that his only means of getting back into the England team is by scoring bucketloads of runs in county cricket and waiting his turn.
By making 118 off 144 balls against an attack he treated with progressively more disdain Bairstow began to accomplish the first part of that task. His third Championship century of the season was filled with the thrilling drives, powerful pulls and impertinent sweeps which his advocates have cited as evidence of his precocious class. The contrasting styles of Bairstow and Lyth during their partnership can be gauged from the fact that Lyth was on 63 when his partner arrived at the crease and that Bairstow required only three more deliveries to reach 100 than Lyth had needed to score his second fifty. It was a deeply effective combination.
"Jonny is obviously a class player and he batted fantastically well today," Lyth said. "I was in the seventies for 30 or 40 balls, but when you've got someone like Jonny scoring at four or five runs an over it takes the pressure off."
Lyth and Bairstow put on 197 in 48.4 overs for the fourth wicket against an attack that was held together for most of the day by Claude Henderson, who bowled unchanged for 35 overs from the Pavilion End. The slow left-armer took the wicket of Gale and went for less than three runs an over, although he was both hit for six and reverse swept by Lyth, once the Yorkshireman had reached his hundred. By then the opener once again had regained the licence to bat with more freedom, another thing which old pros like Illingworth might have appreciated.
In the last hour of play Matthew Hoggard took the new ball and Nathan Buck broke the partnership that had bedevilled his team's day when Bairstow was, in the professionals' argot, "turned round" and edged the ball to Greg Smith at slip. Gary Ballance followed four balls later, lbw to Hoggard for a single and the day ended with Lyth and Anthony McGrath batting for the morrow.
Yet for all that Saturday will be remembered for Illingworth's honour and the Lyth-Bairstow stand, Yorkshire's progression to a position of strength in this match was not as facile as a glance at the second-day scorecard might suggest: Joe Root was castled by a low-bouncing Buck delivery in the fourth over; Phil Jaques, having batted fluently and found the boundary frequently in making 30, top-edged the same bowler straight to deep backward square-leg, Matthew Boyce one of two fielders who had been deliberately placed for just such an eventuality; and when Gale carelessly cut Henderson to backward point five overs after lunch the promotion-chasing visitors were still 208 in arrears on first innings.
For half an hour or so the Yorkshire effort was in the balance as Henderson and Buck extracted plenty of bounce from a Grace Road pitch that may prove rather tricky on the final day. The visitors hope that will not be their problem, though. If Lyth and McGrath can dig in tomorrow morning, Yorkshire will aim to bat only once in this match. Ray Illingworth would approve.