Lyth-Finch catch repeat inspires Yorkshire
Yorkshire 168 for 5 (Gale 55, Raine 3-25) beat Leicestershire 154 for 8 (Smith 56, Rashid 2-24) by 14 runs
If you thought the most wondrous catch in the NatWest Blast this season was too good to be repeated, think again. The double act produced by Adam Lyth and Aaron Finch in the Roses match at Old Trafford was re-enacted for local consumption at Headingley as Yorkshire kept their quarter-final fires burning with a 14-run win against Leicestershire.
To watch such a slick combination once was a privilege. To see it twice in a matter of weeks defied belief. It had become an everyday miracle like birdsong or Black Sheep bitter. Twice, Lyth and Finch have achieved standards that if produced in IPL would be talked about for years.
Nothing could be a better advertisement for the NatWest Blast as it battles to gain a place in public affections. There might even be a grudging nod of approval when no one is looking from those Yorkshire members who stoutly refuse to give house room to anything other than Championship cricket.
At Old Trafford, it was Tom Smith who perished as Yorkshire clung on for a narrow victory. This time Josh Cobb was silenced just as a domineering stand between Cobb and Greg Smith suggested that Leicestershire could successfully pursue the 169 needed for victory. On both occasions, the Blast achieved standards that would delight any T20 league in the world.
The routine is so slick it is tempting to assume it has been practiced more than it has. On both occasions, Lyth acrobatically knocked back the ball in mid-air from over the long-on boundary for Finch to complete the catch inside the boundary rope. Only this time the marks for artistic impression were higher: there was more of a twist in Lyth's leap and Finch, instead of just accepting a perfect hand-off, had to plunge forward to hold a low, right-handed catch. "That was ordinary - we'll have to work on that in the morning," Finch joked.
"I don't know what to say to be honest," Lyth said. "I needed a bit of luck. I had to run a little bit further for this one. And it's Finchy who gets the catch." They were quite rightly judged by Sky TV as joint winners of the Man of the Match award.
"It changed the game," Andrew Gale, Yorkshire's captain, said. "Leicestershire have a lot of power up top. We practise a lot of our fielding but I'm not sure how much we practise that. It just shows the power and athleticism of the boys."
Fielding settled this match - one that Yorkshire were desperate to win to make the most of two home matches in successive days. Matt Boyce and Ben Raine were both run out, the latter via a direct hit from Azeem Rafiq. For Raine, who had bowled Finch on his way to 3 for 25, a first-ball dismissal killed his thoughts of a match-winning turn. It was all far removed from Leicestershire's shoddy fielding display.
There was a stumping, too, from Jonny Bairstow to rid Yorkshire of Ned Eckersley as the spinners, Adil Rashid and Rafiq, strangled Leicestershire in mid-innings on a gripping pitch. But as Bairstow seeks to rebuild his reputation he should reflect, too, on a careless missed run-out of Eckersley when he took the throw one handed and broke the stumps after the ball had slipped from his grasp.
Yorkshire struck 33 from the last two overs of their innings - Tim Bresnan and Richard Pyrah rescuing an innings which had never caught fire. Greg Smith, out four overs from the end after making 56 from 49 balls, ensured Leicestershire needed only 27, but from the first ball Tom Wells struck Ryan Sidebottom flat to long-off where Finch this time took the catch without the need for a combo. At eight wickets down, Leicestershire never threatened again.
Gale had provided the half-century that gave Yorkshire early ballast. "They gave me a few lives, but you need a bit of luck in T20," he said. "I've had a stinker in the first five games so I've gone back to being an orthodox slogger, if you like."
The captain could be satisfied with his change of fortune but, as they returned to the top four, of far more importance was an essential victory less than 24 hours before Durham arrive at Headingley. Who knows, those Championship-only members might even turn out to cheer them on.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo