Ominous signs as Yorkshire blow sorry Northants away

Yorkshire's Jack Brooks is congratulated by team-mates on the wicket of Northants' Maurice Chambers. Picture: SWPIX.COM
Yorkshire's Jack Brooks is congratulated by team-mates on the wicket of Northants' Maurice Chambers. Picture: SWPIX.COM
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IT was a comment to send shivers down the spine of the rest of the County Championship First Division.

“I thought we played to about 80 per cent of our potential,” said Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale after his side thrashed Northamptonshire by an innings and 120 runs.

In other words, there is more to come from Yorkshire – at least 20 per cent more, if Gale is right.

Although the quality of opposition had to be taken into account, the quality of Yorkshire was undeniable; this was the type of convincing performance evocative of potential title challengers.

It was a performance orchestrated, in good part, by pace bowler Jack Brooks, who captured career-best match figures of 8-112 against his former club.

Brooks, as Gale said afterwards, does not always get it right, but, when he does, he has the priceless ability to take wickets in clusters, a knack of producing devastating spells.

Ryan Sidebottom, with miserly match figures of 7-50, was another standout performer – as was Gary Ballance, whose 174 earlier in the piece (his highest score for the county) was music to the ears of new England coach Peter Moores.

Northamptonshire, who resumed yesterday on 149-4 in their follow-on, 216 runs behind, were bowled out shortly before lunch for 245, utterly powerless to stop a Yorkshire team playing to even four-fifths of their capability.

With Ballance off the field as a precaution after suffering a cut finger while trying to take a catch on the third evening, but not a doubt for Sunday’s match against Middlesex at Lord’s, Yorkshire carried on from where they had left off against their newly-promoted opponents.

Rob Newton played a poor shot to the day’s fourth ball, slapping Sidebottom to point and setting the tone for another grim batting exhibition. Maurice Chambers edged the 20th delivery of the morning from Brooks to second slip, the visitors sliding to 181-7 when Andrew Hall miscued a pull back to Liam Plunkett, the bowler, who stuck out a left hand in his follow-through.

Steven Crook guided Steve Patterson to first slip, Northamptonshire falling to 195-9 when David Willey tried to slash the same bowler through the offside and edged behind to Andrew Hodd.

David Murphy and Mohammad Azharullah had nothing to lose in their last-wicket stand, and they enjoyed themselves in an entertaining alliance that at least ensured a bit more cricket for a crowd who watched in pleasant sunshine.

Both men were dropped; Murphy, on four, was spilled by Hodd off Plunkett, while Plunkett put down Azharullah, also on four, at short cover off Patterson.

But it proved about as costly as a millionaire mislaying a £5 note.

Yorkshire completed the inevitable when Adil Rashid had Azharullah caught behind, ending a partnership of 50 in 15 overs that sealed a result that suggested Northamptonshire have a long summer ahead.

“Pretty bluntly, Yorkshire bowled better than us, they batted better than us, and they caught better than us,” said their coach David Ripley. “And that’s a good recipe for coming second in a two-horse race.

“We played well against Durham in our opening game when we held on for a draw, but we have been reminded here that if you have a bad session it puts you on the back foot. And we had more than one bad session.”

For Gale and his players, there were no such regrets.

However, the captain expanded on his view there is room for improvement.

“I think we’ve still got quite a lot in the tank,” he said.

“I think there’s more runs to come from the top order, and the difference with the bat really was Gary Ballance, who played superbly well.

“I thought there were periods where we bowled very well but still periods where we didn’t put the ball in the right areas consistently enough.

“We were probably striving for wickets too much when we got the sniff of a win and pushed too hard for it.

“So that will give us a kick up the backside.”

Gale reserved a special word of praise for Brooks, who had more reason than most to toast Yorkshire’s first championship victory of the season.

Brooks left Northamptonshire for Headingley in 2012 – and this match showed why Yorkshire were so keen to sign him.

“It’s never easy, I would imagine, playing against your old club because you always want to prove a point – not that Jack left on bad terms,” said Gale.

“There were probably a few nerves around as well, so to perform in the fashion he did was superb.

“He can be a little bit more consistent and he knows that; he bowls a few full tosses and a few short balls at times but he also bowls wicket-taking balls.

“Jack’s a great asset for us and very effective at Headingley in particular.”