Roses tie thrills capacity crowd
Yorkshire 152 for 6 (Jaques 66*) tied with Lancashire 152 for 5 (Croft 42*, Smith 35, Pyrah 3-15) Scorecard
This was an uplifting evening for the neutral, but this was also a Roses match, where there is no such thing as no man's land. So before extolling the joys of a capacity crowd at Headingley, entertained to the utmost, it is best to record without further ado that the result was a tie. Neither captain looked particularly happy. But Yorkshire, under the cosh for much of the night, will feel they got away with it.
With three runs needed from the final ball, and Ryan Sidebottom bent upon rounding off a final over awash with perfect yorkers, Steven Croft could only squeeze two runs to deep cover. Sidebottom punched the air as if in victory. Yorkshire have yet to win in three goes, Lancashire just avoided three defeats in a week, but both will feel their chance of qualification from North Group is not yet extinguished.
That is what matters most, and it would have mattered just as much if it was played in front of one man and his dog.
But it was not. It was hotly contested in front of Yorkshire's first capacity crowd for nine years. It stated that county cricket, repositioned intelligently, can have a future. They turned out at Headingley even though Yorkshire took the field without their England triumvirate of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow or Tim Bresnan and, as well as that, are trying to survive throughout this Friends Life t20 season without an overseas player.
There was controversy, too, in a broiling finale, fought out between two vulnerable batting sides which did not make the most of a favourable surface. Gareth Cross will surely face the wrath of the ECB for his dissent after he was entirely deceived by a loopy slower ball from Liam Plunkett which passed him around waist high. Cross thought it was substantially higher - and therefore should have been called a no ball - but he was so disorientated by the delivery his opinion did not carry much weight.
Glen Chapple, Lancashire's captain, said: "Gareth's dismissal looks a bit high. We have a third umpire and I don't see why he was not used. We are playing some decent cricket but we need to win some games now." Andrew Gale, his Yorkshire opposite number, said: "At halfway we would have regarded that as a point gained. But Ryan nailed two yorkers at the death; he is one of the best yorker bowlers in the world."
Croft's unbeaten 42 from 28 balls fueled Lancashire's stuttering innings. He averages more than 30 in T20, with a strike rate of 120-plus. His six over midwicket from Plunkett's full toss left Lancashire needing ten off Sidebottom's final over; his edge through the slips, perilously close to off stump, cut the requirement to five from four. But with 15,000 spectators screaming, Sidebottom hit the blockhole when it most mattered.
But there is a bigger picture. Around the country, in gorgeous weather, the crowds came out in force. There was even a capacity crowd at Derby for the East Midlands derby, a reward for a club operating with good habits, and at The Oval. After ten years, despite the usual media disinclination to cover the tournament extensively, a few days of sunshine have been enough to bring out the crowds. Perhaps next season's switch to regular Friday nights might yet have a chance of success.
Tom Smith's pinch hitting should have set Lancashire on course for victory. He slapped an over of length balls from Brooks for 24, enough for the bowler to slip his headband over his eyes in disbelief. But Richard Pyrah replaced Brooks, had Smith excellently caught at mid-on by Plunkett and then bowled Simon Katich and Karl Brown. His 3 for 15 won the Man of the Match award. As for the Duke of York Cup, awarded to the winners, presumably it went back into the Duke's attic.
It was a wonderful Headingley surface, testimony again to the groundsmanship skills of Andy Fogarty, possessing the pace and bounce that T20 needs to maximise the entertainment. By halfway, Yorkshire were restless at 69 for 2, Gale briefly looking pumped up, as a Yorkshire captain should when the public, for once, lives up to the folklore by turning out, before he was deflated by a lackadaisical wide half volley by Tom Smith.
Lancashire's spinners strangled Yorkshire in mid-innings. Arron Lilley, a 22-year-old from Tameside, was on debut for Lancashire and collected his first T20 wicket when he ended Adil Rashid's fussing lbw on the reverse sweep. There was minimal turn, but Yorkshire managed less than a run a ball against 10 overs of spin. The 100 limped along with only 29 balls remaining. Yorkshire would not have fancied their chances at that point. But then Roses matches are not easily read.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo