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Leeds, April 06 - 09, 2023, County Championship Division Two
517 & 286/8d
(T:389) 415 & 392/7

Leics won by 3 wickets


Rishi Patel's maiden ton leads 'sensational' Leicestershire to historic win at Yorkshire

Leicestershire beat Yorkshire in Championship at Headingley for first time since 1910

David Hopps
David Hopps
Leicestershire secured a historic win at Yorkshire, Yorkshire v Leicestershire, Headingley, County Championship, 1st day, April 6, 2023

Leicestershire secured a historic win at Yorkshire  •  PA Images via Getty Images

Leicestershire 415 (Handscomb 112, Rehan 85, Milnes 3-72, Thompson 3-86) and 392 for 7 (Patel125, Ackermann 72, Handscomb 68*, Bess 5-158) beat Yorkshire 517 (Malan 132, Bean 118) and 286 for 8 dec (Hope 83, Hill 67, Wharton 52, Hull 3-68) by three wickets
In 1910, King George V was crowned, the London Palladium was opened and, believe it or not, a match between Eton and Harrow was described by Wisden as the most sensational in the history of cricket. It was also the last time Leicestershire beat Yorkshire in the Championship at Headingley.
Well, now they have done it again. Times change, and even the 2024 Wisden, with its annual commitment to county cricket, might not be as effusive as it once was about Eton vs Harrow, but this time it is Leicestershire who deserve the term "sensational".
In what must rank as one of the biggest Championship shocks for years, they pulled off the third-highest successful chase in their history, conquering a target of 389 in 87 overs by three wickets with seven balls to spare, surpassing the 378 for 5 they achieved to beat Middlesex at Grace Road two years ago.
Foremost among Leicestershire's heroes was Rishi Patel, whose maiden Championship hundred, 125 from 205 balls, fired their belief that such a formidable final-day chase was in reach. They owed much, too, to the controlled power of Colin Ackermann in mid-afternoon and the nervelessness of Peter Handscomb, whose watchful role in making an unbeaten 68 from 99 balls was expertly judged.
Add some lusty blows against the second new ball by the long-in-the-tooth, long-handle of Chris Wright (40 from 32 balls), finished by a steer of Jordan Thompson's bouncer over the keeper, and the celebrations were theirs. The cheers from the away dressing room almost drowned out the shouts from the rugby ground across the way where Leeds Rhinos were in action.
If that shock 1910 victory caused only minor reverberations at the time, it was also quite a thing. The Yorkshire side included the great Kirkheaton triumvirate of George Hirst, Schofield Haigh and Wilfred Rhodes. But they were captained by that year by Everard Ratcliffe during prolonged absences of Lord Hawke, the great Yorkshire autocrat, had one of their worst seasons in that era and succumbed to Thomas Jayes' seven-for in the second innings; Jayes was to die of TB three years later.
Not for the first time, Dom Bess underwent a marathon Yorkshire spell without quite gaining reward: his fortune will surely change. It is hard to envisage another Yorkshire spin bowler taking five wickets at Headingley as early as April 9. Bess finished with 5 for 158 off 32 overs, a marathon spell from the 13th over interrupted only for a brief rest and a change of ends, and clingfilmed a vulnerable Yorkshire seam attack on a monotonously dead surface.
A second new ball that might have provided a route to Yorkshire's victory became instead their downfall as Yorkshire removed Bess from the attack after long discussions with 37 needed from five overs. It was understandable, but Ben Coad's second over back (the requirement now 25 from three) cost 16, beginning with Handscomb's immediate switch of gear as he crept down the pitch and yanked a back-of-the-length ball into the Western Terrace for six. Wright followed up with two slaps down the ground and the game was as good as Leicestershire's.
So much for pre-match theories. If Yorkshire wanted perfect opponents to rebuild their morale after a year that had brought relegation on the field and widespread condemnation off it then surely Leicestershire were that team. Leicestershire, so often county cricket's whipping boys, bottom of the pile last season without a single victory to their name.
Such thoughts did not extend to the dressing room - a delayed declaration on the final day was proof of that. Yorkshire's lead was 322 at the start of play with six wickets intact. There had been grumbles from some spectators that Yorkshire had not declared late on the the previous evening, but the pitch was flat and what logic there was in such a view presumably arose from an early-season attack of Yorkshire hubris which like the common cold is not easily shaken off.
Instead, Yorkshire thrashed a further 66 in seven overs, and those seven overs took the best part of 50 minutes, in part due to a hand injury suffered by Jordan Thompson to the first ball he faced, but also some deliberate indolence from Leicestershire in the field, supervised by a captain, Lewis Hill, who appeared to prefer low-level professionalism to any thoughts of victory. Survival cricket can become a habit. Perhaps he has learned something from what followed.
On this surface, for the bowlers there was nowt doin', not even for the new ball on a murky Easter Sunday morning. Leicestershire worked the ball around with ease. George Hill, a part-time seamer, was the only bowler able to exert control. Sometimes cricket history is made with stirring deeds, bringing an avalanche of emotions. Sometimes, like this time, historic moments gather slowly and surreptitiously. After Leicestershire had conceded 517 on first innings, a win felt barely conceivable, although recovering from such a position has become increasingly common, nine of the 20 occasions occuring this century.
Sol Budinger supported Patel in a lively opener of 80 before Bess took the first of his three wickets as the batter picked out midwicket. Hill was the only Leicestershire batter to fail when he tried to cut Bess and edged to the keeper. Patel should have been caught off Coad at point on eight - a blemish by James Wharton. But the methodical air was immediately re-established as Colin Ackermann joined Patel in a stand of 113 in 27 overs. Patel, who made eight single-figure scores in his last 11 innings last season, almost perished to a return catch against Hill on 97, bur recovered his poise to slog-sweep Bess for six in to the deserted West Stand to reach three figures.
Leicestershire never looked overstretched as Ackermann, more than anybody, met Bess with ease, only for the offspinner to intervene just before tea, with the requirement looking a very manageable 188 from 38 at 4.95. At 20 to 4, much to everyone's amazement, the ball turned appreciably and Ackermann fell lbw on the back foot.
Yorkshire maintained an attacking intent as much as the situation allowed - Adam Lyth, a "stand-in, stand-in captain", holding his nerve. Lyth himself did not walk out of slip until 78 overs had gone and by then Yorkshire had removed not just Patel, but Bess had also defeated two batters on the charge - Wiaan Mulder slicing high to deep cover and Rehan Ahmed wilder still as he was stumped by Shai Hope. When Michael Finan's promotion up the order failed, it felt like Leicestershire might fall short, but this Yorkshire pace attack lacks presence and on this surface it proved to be vulnerable to the end.

David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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