du Plessis carries Lancashire home
Lancashire 216 for 7 (du Plessis 77*, Gough 3-45) beat Yorkshire 204 for 7 (Rudolph 65, Hogg 3-27) by three wickets (D/L method)
For the second successive Sunday, Lancashire hosted and won a one-day thriller, though this time they did not leave it to the final ball, as Francois du Plessis, their Kolpak South African, hit 77 off 80 balls. A big penultimate over that brought 17 runs turned a nail-biter into a surprisingly comfortable ending, and the three-wicket victory kept them on top of the North Division.
Lancashire began their chase with a bang, though helped by a low chance offered by Gareth Cross but missed at first slip in Tim Bresnan's first over. A superb catch by Adam Lyth at square leg off a powerful pull by Mal Loye (15) brought Yorskhire their first wicket; 33 for 1. Bresnan then bowled a wide, and the next ball had Stuart Law flashing and being caught at the wicket without scoring.
The match had turned when Lancashire slipped to 46 for 4, Darren Gough taking two wickets, at which point Cross started to open up. But he was bowled for 41 by David Wainwright; 76 for 5 in the 22nd over, and Lancashire were now in serious danger of heavy defeat.
The middle order then fought back, led by 'Faf' du Plessis (whose name can often cause a few problems), with assistance from Luke Sutton. Quietly and responsibly, they worked the ball around the field, adding 62 in 13 overs before Sutton departed lbw to Pyrah; the target was now 76 in 11 overs.
The dismissal may well have been of benefit to Lancashire, for Kyle Hogg was soon into his stride, hitting with more power than Sutton had managed. du Plessis reached his 50 off 62 balls as the equation came down to 36 off the last five overs. Then 23 off three overs; Hogg hit two twos, and edged Richard Pyrah to the keeper for a gallant 31 off 30 balls.
The key moment was perhaps a tactical errot from Gough, entrusting the next over to Bresnan, whose previous spell had been erratic. A slog for four to long-on by du Plessis took Lancashire closer, before Glen Chapple edged another boundary to fine leg. He followed it up with a smash past the bowler for another boundary, and Lancashire were home.
Lancashire's decision to put Yorkshire had soon been justified as they slipped to 58 for 4. Jacques Rudolph was joined by Craig White, no longer a Yorkshire regular after finishing last season in disastrous form. He was painfully slow at first, while Rudolph concentrated on working the ball for ones and twos, and the impression was that Yorkshire were simply playing for respectability, the run-rate being little over three an over.
Rudolph reached 50 off 75 balls, and then hit Steven Marshall for six wide of long-on, before sweeping extravagantly at the next ball to be bowled for 65. Five were down for 145, in the 38th over, when it started to rain. Although play continued for a few balls, a heavy downpour drove them from the field.
More than an hour was lost, requiring the match to be rescheduled for 45 overs a side. Yorkshire did well with their remaining allocation, taking their total to 204, thanks to 17 coming in the final over off Sajid Mahmood. White, who has perhaps played himself back into form, picked up his scoring rate and clubbed a six in the final over.
Lancashire were set a target of 214 in their 45 overs using the D/L method, and for a long time it looked out of reach. The credit for the turnaround must go to du Plessis, and after such a fine performance, maybe people will have fewer problems with his name.