<
>

Lyth's battling hundred tests Lancashire's faith

play
County ChampionshiƄp Round-up: Misery for Warwickshire (1:16)

ESPNcricinfo brings you the latest form the County Championship as Jimmy Adams and Sean Ervine pile the misery on Warwickshire. (1:16)

Lancashire 123 (Coad 6-25, Sidebottom 3-30) and 141 for 4 (Chanderpaul 43*) trail Yorkshire 273 ( Lyth 100, Clark 3-44, Mahmood 3-62) by nine runs
Scorecard

Last August Yorkshire took the immensely far-sighted step of opening a dedicated multi-faith room at Headingley. Let us hope on the second evening of this match that it will be made available to devout believers in Lancashire.

If so, the visiting communicants will not be short of supplications and chief amongst them will be that their side can find someone to copy the self-denial of Adam Lyth and lead their side away from the despond of defeat on the third day of this game.

The bookmakers' odds - if we may shift our gaze from God to mammon for a moment - are weighed heavily against such an escape. After conceding a first-innings lead of 150 runs, Lancashire have already lost four wickets in reducing the deficit to nine.

Two of the wickets were taken by Jack Brooks but the crucial scalp of Haseeb Hameed was claimed for the second time in little more than 24 hours by Ben Coad, when the opener played across a ball slanting in at the stumps. And Steven Croft departed to a Lyth slip catch when Ryan Sidebottom moved one across him.

Visiting hopes probably rest on Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who will go into Sunday morning on 43 not out, and on Dane Vilas, who has already made good runs for the county in his first season. But the shrieks and yells from the Yorkshire fielders that followed each delivery in the evening session were not merely an attempt to kid the batsman that something was happening. A 150-run lead should prove decisive on this pitch and it may not matter that the weather forecast for Monday is very gloomy

That Yorkshire possessed such a handsome first-innings advantage can largely be explained by Lyth's remarkable feat of concentration and self-discipline. The opener came into this match with 90 runs against his name in Championship cricket this season at a grimy average of 12.85.

To a degree, Lyth's struggles continued in this innings yet he fought his way through them with seven partners, reaching a half-century in 155 minutes off 125 balls and his 22nd first-class hundred in 314 minutes, having hit 13 boundaries.

To judge the merit of the innings one has to realise that Lyth is frequently one of the finest attacking strokeplayers in the game. The ball sings off his blade and he can make even his England team-mates in the Yorkshire side appear pedestrian accumulators. Yet here he was, scuttling the nudged singles and tolerating the less than perfect drives for twos.

Lyth was in the 90s for 17 overs and faced 41 balls before pushing Tom Bailey to midwicket to reach three figures. The deep-throated roar from the ranks massed at the Kirkstall Lane End at once saluted its worth. Lyth is Yorkshire in thew and sinew; perhaps he recalled the winter drives from his Whitby home to the Headingley nets when he was moving through the county's junior ranks. Maybe any sacrifice seems worth it when you may have set up a win in the Roses match.

Mind you, Lancashire's bowlers did all they could to hobble their opponents' progress during the first two sessions of Saturday's cricket. Indeed, they may regard the capture of eight wickets for 180 runs in conditions nothing like as testing as Friday's to be something of a victory.

Predictably, perhaps, Ryan McLaren made the first breakthrough when he came round the wicket and squared up Gary Ballance, Vilas at slip taking the first of his three catches from the resultant edge.

That wicket took the sheen off what had been a good first half-hour for Yorkshire, the comical highlight of which had been the four byes resulting from a ball bowled by McLaren which swung past the far side of Vilas with the wicketkeeper Davies sprawling in front of him There are few things a Yorkshireman enjoys more than the sight of Lancashire's cricketers doing a passable imitation of Fred Karno's Army; so the glee in the Kirkstall Lane Stand when this tiny piece of chaos unfolded needs little imagining.

Yet the morning and afternoon's cricket revealed a team who were determined to keep Yorkshire's lead in check. Never was this more clearly in evidence than in the close fielding. Eight catches were taken in the cordon during Yorkshire's innings with the pick of them being McLaren's right-handed effort to remove Jack Leaning ten minutes before lunch. That wicket was taken by Saqib Mahmood who also removed Tim Bresnan next ball and enjoyed his best day in a Lancashire shirt.

Like Mahmood, Jordan Clark took three wickets and they included that of Lyth who played by far the poorest shot of his innings to the ball after he reached his century, a wild drive nicking the ball to Davies; the wicketkeeper also did the needful to get rid of Coad two balls later. Yorkshire's innings ended when Brooks swung Bailey to Hameed at deep backward square leg and Lancashire's second attempt began under bright skies.

The day's cricket concluded, though, with the lights on and with the slips' falsetto cries forming a curious and slightly histrionic accompaniment to every play and miss and every unevenly bouncing ball.

Yet the truth is that if Lancashire get out of this game with even five points for a draw it will seem like a win to them and it will feel like a defeat to Yorkshire. For that to happen, though, Chanderpaul, Vilas and probably a couple of others will need to take root. The effect on the visiting players' morale would be very great and it may also steer supporters away from apostasy in these dark times.