Lehmann’s champagne performance will never be forgotten

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AS listeners to the Yorkshire Post’s weekly CricketTalk podcast will know, I was recently invited by my esteemed colleague and CricketTalk presenter Phil Harrison to pick the favourite match I have seen as a journalist.

Having been lucky enough to have covered the whole of the 2005 Ashes series for this newspaper, I cannot in all conscience look too far beyond the Edgbaston Test of that summer or the final Test at The Oval, when Michael Vaughan’s England won back the urn.

However, rather than boringly and predictably pick those two games, or any others from that halcyon summer, I opted instead for the most dramatic county match I have been fortunate to see.

Or, to be strictly accurate, the most dramatic cricket I have been fortunate to see within the context of a county match.

It took place on August 26, 2001, and is worthy of further reminiscence here, while there is a chance that plenty of you would have seen it, too.

There was certainly standing room only at Scarborough on that unforgettable Sunday afternoon as Yorkshire entertained Nottinghamshire in an old Norwich Union League First Division match.

However, it was not so much the lure of a one-day league game that drew the crowds to North Marine Road, but the fact that, two days earlier, Yorkshire had won the County Championship for the first time since 1968.

There was a celebratory mood in the air, the feeling of a club and a cricket ground in a mood to party.

And when it comes to partying, few were more skilled in that capacity than a certain Darren Lehmann, who promptly emerged from the pavilion – head still spinning from the champagne celebrations – to smash 191 from 103 balls, which remains the highest innings for Yorkshire in a one-day match.

When I say head still spinning, I was reliably informed some years later by one of Lehmann’s team-mates that day that the great man actually took a swig of some champagne that was still in his helmet before striding out to bat.

What followed was a champagne performance the like of which I never seen in any form of cricket – not even Twenty20 – as the Australian bludgeoned 20 fours and 11 sixes, one of which nearly took my head off as I queued for a cup of tea on the popular bank.

It was Twenty20 cricket before Twenty20 had even come to England, one of those “I was there” days more normally associated with such thrilling events as the 2005 Ashes.

I remember it, too, for being the first match I ever covered in Yorkshire. At the time, I was working for the Nottingham Evening Post, covering Nottinghamshire home and away, and I remember talking afterwards to Clive Rice, the then-Nottinghamshire director of cricket, and remembering how even the unflappable South African, who had seen it all over the years, seemed utterly stunned by Lehmann’s display.

A quick shufty at the scorecard reminds me that it was Kevin Pietersen – then in his first season in English cricket – who got Lehmann out, caught, if memory serves, on the long-on boundary at the Trafalgar Square end.

Lehmann was actually dismissed some time before the end as Yorkshire scored 352-6 from their 45 overs, still their highest one-day league total.

In reply, Pietersen managed only five as Nottinghamshire were ejected for 173, Lehmann chipping in with two wickets and a catch.

Yorkshire won by a whopping 179 runs on a day when Lehmann left memories to last for a lifetime.