Murali bowls Lancashire to victory
Lancashire 517 beat Yorkshire 144 and 247 (Muralitharan 5-66) by an innings and 126 runs
Yorkshire's County Championship hopes for 2007 took a serious blow when they went down weakly, by an innings and 126 runs, to Lancashire at Headingley on the third afternoon. In their second innings Yorkshire subsided for a total of 247. Nine of their batsmen reached double figures, but significantly none had the determination to reach 50.
To add to Yorkshire's shame, it was the heaviest defeat they had suffered at the hands of their Roses rivals. For Lancashire, the last-day hero was Muttiah Muralitharan, who took five wickets, although special mention should be made of Steven Croft for his excellent fielding, which brought two catches and a run-out.
The Yorkshire innings was a slide rather than a rout, and it began with the second ball of the day. It was bowled by Andrew Flintoff, and edged by Joe Sayers (19) to the keeper. After that, Yorkshire did for a while put up a good fight. They had a batsman in at number three with a Test-match double-century to his credit and even if it was Jason Gillespie, in as night-watchman, and the opposition had been Bangladesh, he rarely throws his wicket away and finished as top scorer with 44.
For a while his favourite stroke seemed to be the edge through the slips, and Lancashire bowlers appeared to be feeding it. Then he played two successive off-side drives for four off Flintoff and found his confidence. He put on 79 with Anthony McGrath, who was batting soundly, and Yorkshire looked like making a contest of it.
Then came the turning point of the innings, as Muralitharan changed from the Rugby Stand to the Kirkstall Lane End of the ground, and immediately looked a far more dangerous bowler. He had the batsmen struggling from the start, and broke the stand by having Gillespie caught by Croft at silly mid-off for 44 - destined to be Yorkshire's highest score of the match.
McGrath might have been Yorkshire's man for the moment, but he fatally misjudged the fielding of Croft in the deep and was run out for 40, looking for a third run from one of his impressive cover drives. After that, there was little real fight left in the Yorkshire batting. Younis Khan made 31, but swept Muralitharan straight to Flintoff, and there was an entertaining flurry from the tail, but little traditional Yorkshire grit was in evidence.
Lancashire thoroughly deserved their triumph, but for Yorkshire it is a time for serious reflection. They will need to finish the season as well as they started it to have any hope of Championship honours this year.