Northamptonshire 234 and 94 for 4 need a further 126 to beat Yorkshire 206 and 247 (Willey 41*, Parnell 5-79)
Yorkshire’s victory from a parlous position at Hove last week caused their coach, Andrew Gale, to praise their character and resilience. If they repeat the feat against Northants at Headingley then similar acclamation will surely follow. Why, Yorkshire grit might even get a mention.
Yorkshire are slight favourites, with Northants 94 for 4 in pursuit of 220, but it is foolhardy to suggest as much. If the Headingley Cricketing Gods get the slightest indication that victory is already being anticipated then expect the sun to shine, the pitch to play with monotonous predictability and Northants to scoot home soon after lunch. This not a ground on which you get ahead of yourself.
What is abundantly clear is that, for the second successive week, Yorkshire are involved in an engrossing contest that has shown Championship cricket at its best. That is partly due to Yorkshire’s batting frailties – and that vulnerability remains – but largely because both surfaces, whether encouraging spin or seam, have provided a balance between bat and ball. Northants, like Sussex, have been worthy opponents.
Spare me this contention that the prime duty of the Championship is to produce utterly flat pitches so potential Test cricketers can learn to concentrate. If you want England batters to learn to concentrate, try mindfulness, memory tests or get them to read a book or two.
Northants, like Sussex, have exchanged punch for punch, but their chances diminished the moment their one batsman of true quality, the South African Ricardo Vasconcelos, ran himself out for 41 when he pushed the ball to David Willey’s left-hand at mid-on and was beaten by a direct hit. If anybody can be forgiven a momentary misjudgement, perhaps someone fulfilling the role of opening batter, wicketkeeper and captain could.
Two other wickets fell in successive balls to Jordan Thompson, inswingers at the end of his first over and start of his second removing Ben Curran and Charlie Thurston. He has taken the new ball in this match and he has barely wasted a delivery. Combative with bat and ball, at 24, he is coming into his own. Gale’s message that he is “my type of cricketer” will find nods of agreement from a growing number.
At 43 for 3 overnight, only 15 runs on, Yorkshire clearly had their work cut out to fashion a victory that would maintain their unbeaten record. That they made 247 in the toughest batting conditions of the match would have given them considerable satisfaction.
Northants’ chief threat rested with the South African Wayne Parnell who took five wickets in an innings for the second time to finish with match figures of 10 for 143. Plus most of the 31 byes, of course, because at regular intervals Northants’ aggrieved stand-in wicketkeeper Vasconcelos was left sprawling in the dirt, rising more slowly on each occasion, sometimes with hands on hips in exasperation at lavish late swing.
This was only Parnell’s second career 10-wicket haul, which, at 31, is quite a surprise, because when the ball swings, he is quite a handful. He quickly removed the left-handed Gary Ballance with an outswinger and in his following over, picked off the nightwatchman, Steve Patterson.
In one of Parnell’s most wayward overs, Johnny Tattersall picked the ball of his pads for 14. But Tattersall, who had played soundly, then deflected a back-of-a-length delivery from Taylor to the keeper, giving Tom Taylor his only wicket of the match. Yorkshire were 86 for 6 and in the mire, but they don’t just bat deep, they bat deep with considerable nous.
Partnerships of 59 in 17 from Dom Bess and Harry Brook for the seventh wicket and and 65 in 19 for the ninth wicket between Thompson and Willey underlined that Yorkshire’s lower orders were not spooked by the moving ball, and Northants’ seamers could not quite sustain the pressure. All made between 37 and 41 in a concerted team response.
Presumably Brook’s pronounced back and across movement has been influenced by Ballance, whose shift deep into his crease before the bowler delivers caused such debate during his England career. Slightly-built, Brook cuts a fretful figure at the crease, an exhausting collection of short walks, tugs of kit and head jerks: one wonders, looking at that substantial trigger movement, if he can quite spare the calories. Bess, by contrast, stands still and ruminates. Both, in their own way, began the fightback.
Brooke might have fallen to Taylor on 23, but Vasconcelos dived over one. Instead, he fell to the first ball he received after lunch, another victim for Parnell, who drew him into driving at a wide one.
The appearance of Simon Kerrigan’s left-arm spin was a sign that Northants needed to block an end in case they needed a second new ball. When the ball was brought on for the umpires in case they needed it, it must have reminded Willey that, at nine down, he needed to up the tempo.
Three successive sixes against Gareth Berg took Yorkshire’s lead beyond 200. Yorkshire grit, if Northampton born. The last of the sixes appeared to damage the “R” in Yorkshire on the electronic scoreboard, so Gale should be particularly careful about talking about Willey’s “Yorkshire grit” in case they try to put his words up on the big screen…
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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