Lyth turns cautious craftsman
Yorkshire 396 for 5 (Lyth 182*, Bairstow 60) lead Lancashire 278 by 118 runs
There are two Adam Lyths and both of them are admirable batsmen. The first seems to shun constraint and makes high-class attacking strokeplay seem so easy that one wonders why more people do not practice it; the second appears to have taken an oath of self-denial and eschews risk in favour of shepherding his team to a total that defines the structure of a game.
The crowd at the second day of the Roses match at Old Trafford saw the second Lyth in excelsis, making careful progress to his fifth Championship century of the season and his second on the ground. In doing so he exposed the grisly inadequacy of Lancashire's batting on Sunday and offered something of a tutorial to opponents or spectators interested in seeing how one innings takes its place within the broader effort.
By the close Lyth amassed 182 not out and will relish his power to add to his team's already healthy 118-run lead. Then Yorkshire's attack will attempt to expose their opponent's batting a second time.
The cautious craftsman Lyth was most obviously at work in the morning session when he scored 29 runs off 81 balls and reached his fifty off 121 deliveries. The loss of his opening partner Alex Lees, trapped lbw on the crease by a straight ball from Tom Bailey only reinforced Lyth's resolve.
His three fours in the session may have included the crispest of straight drives off Bailey but far, far more frequent were the equally well played defensive strokes, punctuated occasionally by the opener's stock-in-trade clips off the hip. Every ball was treated as if it might uncover a Lancastrian snake lurking beneath the Mancunian soil.
At the other end Kane Williamson acknowledged few such anxieties and Lyth let the New Zealander go his own sweet way in stroking eight fours in 46. But the pitfalls prepared for the unwary were revealed after lunch when Williamson was skillfully stumped down the leg side by Alex Davies off slow left-armer Stephen Parry, and the same bowler tempted Andrew Gale to pull a short ball straight to Usman Khawaja at midwicket four overs later. In between these dismissals Lyth himself was dropped at slip off Parry, a sharp one-handed chance to Paul Horton when he was 57. So as his captain departed, Lyth swished his bat at the offending world and buckled down for more Puritan observance.
But as it turned out, a cavalier was about to enter the field in the form of Jonny Bairstow and he put Lancashire's mostly blameless bowling to the sword. It is difficult, as yet, to see Bairstow batting in the same fashion as Lyth had managed, so the fourth-wicket pair offered a pleasing contrast during a 103-run stand which occupied only 18.4 overs and took Yorkshire from a respectable 163 for 4 to a prosperous 266 for 4, just 12 runs in arrears.
During that partnership, which changed the tempo of the day's cricket, Lyth reached his century off 213 balls when he pulled Croft to the boundary. As the ball crossed the boundary, he indulged in a celebratory leap and punched the air. Then he seemed to start again.
Bairstow hit eight fours and a six in his own 75-minute entertainment, yet his approach was almost licensed by that of his partner. When the England batsman was bowled for 60, making room to play Steven Croft through the off side, Yorkshire were on the threshold of plain superiority. Although Jack Leaning was lbw to Simon Kerrigan for a single, Adil Rashid joined Lyth in ensuring that the visitors ended the day joyously in the ascendant.
When he trooped off Lyth could reflect how the concentration exercises he had worked on through the winter had borne such rich fruit in one of his side's most important matches. It is also clear that he could not sustain that effort were he not a very fit cricketer indeed. But there is more to the two Adam Lyths on view this summer. He now looks ready to play Test cricket because his relatively defensive innings are not those played by an essentially attacking batsman. He looks deeply comfortable when applying himself in either mode and he gives the impression that batting so well is almost simple. His colleagues and opponents know it is not so.
"This is one of Adam's best knocks," Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie said. "I think what he's shown this year is that he's been able to adapt to different situations and conditions and play accordingly. I think he's ready for Test cricket now. If England's selectors come knocking, he won't let them down. I think he's good enough. He's putting performances on the board, and you can't be ignored forever."