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Jon Culley at Headingley
August 3, 2013
Warwickshire 221 for 8 (Evans 88, Plunkett 4-55) trail Yorkshire 302 (Ballance 112, Lees 56, Barker 3-61, Woakes 3-63) by 81 runs
If Yorkshire's signing of Jack Brooks over the winter was met with nods of approval around Headingley, signalling that the county were serious about following promotion from Division Two with an immediate tilt at the title, it is fair to say that their decision to take Liam Plunkett off Durham's hands met with a somewhat different reaction.
Poor Plunkett, after all, was the former Test bowler whose career appeared to have vanished into an alley marked dead end at Chester-le-Street, his confidence and form falling apart to the extent that his final season included only one first-class appearance. Yorkshire's belief that he might be a useful addition to their playing staff seemed extraordinarily optimistic.
Yet Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire's first-team coach, clearly saw something he could work with and so far his faith seems entirely justified. Revitalised by a spell playing grade cricket in Australia -- and Gillespie's advice to forget about the technical issues that had become his preoccupation and just run in and bowl -- Plunkett has been the revelation of the season.
So far, in eight first-class matches, he has 28 wickets in eight matches so far, including 4 for 55 as Warwickshire struggled against generally testing bowling to post a total within respectable range of Yorkshire's 302.
Plunkett and Steve Patterson -- the unsung member of Yorkshire's seam quartet but their most successful with 33 wickets -- were especially impressive and, while the weather forecast for Monday suggests there may not be a positive result, Yorkshire can congratulate themselves already in having looked the better side against the 2012 champions, reinforcing the view that they are the side to beat in this season's title race.
As it happens, it may be Durham who offer them the biggest challenge, after five wins from nine matches -- two fewer than Yorkshire. Their meeting at Scarborough at the end of this month could be crucial.
From Warwickshire's standpoint, after slipping to 50 for 4 before lunch, it was just as well they had Laurie Evans to make the day a contest. Where Gary Ballance had revealed the resolve and resourcefulness to give Yorkshire the upper hand on the first day, Evans did a similar job to keep Warwickshire at least in the hunt.
His was an impressive innings in the circumstances, his patience at the crease and careful shot selection suggesting that his maiden first-class century against Nottinghamshire last month -- a milestone that had been a long time coming after a false start to his career at Surrey -- has done wonders for his self-belief.
He batted with real authority and had Chris Woakes not mistimed a drive off Plunkett to be caught at cover for 21, their fifth-wicket partnership could have been worth a lot more than 45.
As it was Evans, who has overcome a broken hand and a dislocated finger in what has been a painful season physically, kept his own discipline impressively, his only regret that he did not maintain it for just a little longer.
Going to pull a ball from Plunkett that probably was not there to be pulled, he skied the ball off the top edge and was heading back to the pavilion, cursing his error, long before it came down into Adam Lyth's hands, running to his right from the slip cordon.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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