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Jon Culley at Wantage Road
June 2, 2014
Northamptonshire 251 (Duckett 51) and 66 for 3 trail Yorkshire 136 and 546 for 3 (Lyth 230, Lees 138) by 366 runs
For young men such as Adam Lyth and Alex Lees, to be sitting alongside Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe, Jack Brown and John Tunnicliffe in the record books might bring a certain pride but not a sense that it is relevant to their own careers.
They have that distinction whether they overly care or not, following their partnership of 375 for Yorkshire's first second-innings wicket, but you suspect the words of their captain with reference to admired contemporaries might mean more.
This was the fourth highest partnership in Yorkshire's first-class history, behind the famous 555 of Holmes and Sutcliffe against Essex at Leyton in 1932, the 554 put on by Brown and Tunnicliffe against Derbyshire at Chesterfield in 1898, and the 378 scored by the same pair together against Sussex at Bramall Lane in Sheffield, the previous year.
Figures from history, great ones of course, but Lyth in particular may well be more excited to know that when Andrew Gale, Yorkshire's captain, watches him playing the kind of elegant, artistic and beautifully timed shots of which he is supremely capable on days such as this and he thinks of Ian Bell, a batsman in the English game of today who has few peers.
"I've said to Adam all along that of all the Yorkshire lads that have been playing for England recently -- Root, Bairstow, Ballance -- he is the one with the most ability," Gale said.
"He has probably not been as consistent as he would have liked to be over the last three or four years since coming into the team, he's lacked discipline in his innings at times, gone through the gears too quickly, but he has worked hard on that throughout the winter and has matured a lot.
"That has been the frustration from our point of view, that he has not kicked on the way he would have liked and commanded a place. But when he plays like that he is so fluent, no one can bowl to him, he scores runs around the wicket and is so easy on the eye, very much out of the Ian Bell mould."
Lyth and Lees deserve credit for stamina too, having begun their alliance at 12.17pm on Sunday and remained together until 2.15pm on Monday, when Lees tried to hit Matthew Spriegel over mid-off but put the ball in the hands of Maurice Chambers.
Lees fell for 138, his innings the more prosaic, but demonstrating the stubborn, selfish streak that also went down well with Gale. Lyth survived for another 40 minutes before the persevering Andrew Hall finally drew him into nibbling at one outside off stump to be caught behind. Lyth's 230 was his second double-hundred, ending 18 runs short of equalling his career-best 248 not out against Leicestershire in 2012. He had batted for eight hours precisely.
As Gale agreed, he is a lovely player to watch, with timing and touch to match any English batsman in the Championship on his day. Among 31 fours it was difficult to remember any that did not come off the bat exactly as intended. His 784 runs from 11 first-class innings this season make him the leading run scorer in the country, ahead of Worcestershire's Daryl Mitchell and Samit Patel, both of whom are in the selectors' notebooks.
Consistency is the key for Lyth. Last summer, he made only 730 runs in 27 innings in the Championship, and that in a side close to winning the title. There is something to prove yet, but he is moving in the right direction.
The partnership, the biggest in this season's Championship, also set a record for the highest opening partnership against Northamptonshire and the highest for any wicket bar one, the 385 added by Ted Bowley and Maurice Tate of Sussex for the second wicket at Hove in 1921.
After quick half-centuries from Aaron Finch and Jack Leaning accelerated the Yorkshire total to 546 for 3, Gale's declaration that left the home side chasing 432 to win.
The Yorkshire attack has a good deal more potency and sustainability than Northamptonshire's and they have already made inroads. Tim Bresnan had James Middlebrook caught behind and Stephen Peters snapped up by an exuberant Lyth at second slip, and Jack Brooks has dismissed David Sales, who was plumb in front.
The pitch was never so lively as the first day suggested and after a couple of days of sunshine is playing nicely but seven more wickets should not be beyond Yorkshire.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Would he have fared better than the incumbent middle-order batsmen, Root and Ballance?