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Batting with the tail brings out the best in Michael Burgess

His 96 may not be enough as Yorkshire bowl Warwickshire out for 244

David Hopps
David Hopps
19-May-2022
Michael Burgess attempts something unorthodox, Yorkshire vs Warwickshire, LV= Insurance Championship, Division One, May 19, 2022

Michael Burgess played some unorthodox shots in making 96 off 106  •  Getty Images

Yorkshire 28 for 0 trail Warwickshire 244 (Burgess 96, Patterson 3-43) by 216 runs
There is something about batting with the tail that brings out the best in Michael Burgess. Three times this season, he has been moved to exceptional feats, empowered by circumstance to hit the ball to all parts. He is the unpredictable element of the most methodical batting side in the Championship.
There was his 178 from 221 balls against Surrey from 198 for 5, and his 170 from 217 balls against Essex, from a more precarious 124 for 5, both of them back in April. There would have been a third century, too, against Yorkshire at Headingley, had not the bony fingers of Steve Patterson intercepted his head-high return catch on 96, the second over with the second new ball, falling backwards as he did so.
"That's enough of the funny business," Patterson might have said, as he lay on the floor. By stemming Burgess' assault, he had protected one of Yorkshire's best days with the ball this season. The arrival of Warwickshire, as hard-nosed as they come, had promised a day of toil for an attack that needs no reminding of its limitations, but even with Burgess' free-spited intervention they still fell for 244.
When the tail puts the onus upon Burgess, it focuses his mind and releases the pressure. "Everyone can bat but I've got to marshal things. It's a bit of a win-win. If you get the chance to slog a few why wouldn't you? The end goal is where to get more runs as a team, maybe target the short side, rather than worry about my individual score and luckily it has paid off again."
In a season of formidable scores, 244 sounds well behind the game, but there is a difference: a new batch of Dukes balls has been supplied to all the counties after the initial batch were widely condemned as sub-standard, a criticism broadly accepted by Dilip Jajodia, the owner of British Cricket Balls, who blamed production line shortages due to Covid, making it sound as if he had been forced to call up reinforcements from the local knitting circle.
Patterson, not a big swinger of the ball, swung one back early in the day to have Dom Sibley lbw, an early indication that a batting life might be a little more taxing than of late. So it proved. For once, on an overcast Headingley morning, the ball behaved in time-honoured fashion.
"There's been a lot made about this new batch of balls coming in this week," Burgess said. "I think they've swung a lot more today. It's the first time it has swung for the while 80 overs. Hopefully the ball will stay a bit harder, and nip around a bit, and 244 will seem like a defendable total."
One of the last images of the 2021 cricket season was of Burgess being stumped by Lancashire's Alex Davies in the Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord's. A snip at a mere £340 for any Lancashire supporter wanting it on their wall, although as Warwickshire went on to make 518 and win by an innings and plenty there have probably not been too many takers.
It was inviting to think as the stumps were broken that Davies would soon be inflicting more permanent pain upon Burgess by taking his wicketkeeper's role, his move from Lancashire already agreed. But Davies was suspended for the first match of the season because of historic offensive tweets , Burgess started the season, put Surrey to the sword and has never looked back.
Notably, Warwickshire's collection of keepers did not end at Davies, Chris Benjamin also joining the staff. None of this was entirely encouraging, even if both his rivals were earmarked for white-ball roles. He had returned reasonable batting figures in a Championship-winning year, but he could not be entirely sure about his future.
None of this remotely concerns him now. Davies is playing as a specialist opening batter and adding quality to the top-order (Jordan Thompson seamed one away to have him caught at third slip for 17), and Burgess' batting interventions at 7 make any change of policy madness to contemplate.
No Yorkshire bowler managed to restrain him. As morning clouds gave way to a blissfully sunny afternoon, he became ever more enterprising, the midwicket rope getting more of a targeting in a last-wicket stand of 42 alongside the blocker extraordinaire, Oliver Hannon-Dalby, who was limited to 0* from 13 balls. "I love batting with O, he tells me what to do and he is happy to stay on nought for 50 or 60 balls at a time," said Burgess.
Even allowing for Burgess' assault, Yorkshire must have been well pleased. The loss of Haris Rauf, who was unwell, and the prolonged injury absence of Ben Coad and Matt Fisher, has left Patterson to shuffle an attack comprising a former England offspinner, Dom Bess, the combative but heavily-worked allrounder Thompson, and three batters with developing, needs-must all-rounder credentials in Matthew Revis, George Hill and Tom Loten who began the day with 25 first-class wickets between them. Loten has a rangy, spluttering run, reminiscent of the Al Marmoum Camel race, but all three held up well.
Yorkshire's resourcefulness with limited bowling stocks is all the more praiseworthy considering the amount of catches they have been shelling. Remarkably, the three they dropped here did not cost them a single extra run as Sam Hain, Rob Yates and Will Rhodes were all then dismissed without adding to their score. The most slovenly drop was Will Fraine's at short extra, off Patterson, but the two that attracted the ire of the crowd were from Adam Lyth at second slip. Lyth appeared to offer a rejoinder, but his best rejoinder was when he held Nathan McAndrew's edge.
Joe Root might have been caught up in the catching malaise when the keeper, Harry Duke, moved across his eye line as Danny Lamb edged Revis. Root palmed the ball upwards to complete a serene one-handed catch. Lyth, an excellent slipper during his career, but going through a difficult time, must have remembered when it was all so easy.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps