Poll: Lees and Lyth launch recovery to restore natural balance of power

Yorkshire's Adam Lyth.
Yorkshire's Adam Lyth.
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THERE was a certain inevitability about the way Yorkshire turned this match on its head.

You sensed that they could not bat as poorly as they did on the opening day, when they were dismissed for a paltry 136, and that a first-innings deficit of 115 was more likely to be the prelude to a stirring fightback than a second disappointing capitulation.

Sure enough, as their match against the Championship’s bottom club reached its halfway stage, Yorkshire stood more happily placed and in a state more befitting a side with title ambitions.

They will start day three on 237-0, leading by 122, after recovering strongly once the Northamptonshire first innings had ended at 251 shortly after noon.

The recovery was engineered by Adam Lyth and Alex Lees, the left-handed opening batsmen, who scored 116 and 105 respectively in an unbroken stand of the highest quality.

Lyth, the 26-year-old from Whitby, reined in his normal attacking instincts to play an innings of mature responsibility that took full account of his side’s unpromising position and the match situation.

Lees, a 21-year-old from Halifax, stayed true to a natural game that is characterised by a solid defence and savage drives which have earned him the nickname among his Yorkshire team-mates of ‘Haydos’, the moniker of former Australia left-hander Matthew Hayden, with whom he shares a similarly imposing physique.

Both made their highest Championship scores of the summer, utterly deflating the Northamptonshire attack.

Their partnership – which made a mockery of the fact that 17 wickets had fallen on the opening day – was the highest opening stand in England this summer and Yorkshire’s second-highest first-wicket partnership against Northamptonshire.

Another 43 today and they will surpass the 279 of Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe here in 1919.

It was Yorkshire’s first double century opening stand since Jacques Rudolph and Joe Sayers added 244 against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 2009.

It was also Lyth and Lees’s second double century stand, the pair having added 221 against Leeds-Bradford MCCU at Headingley last year.

The contrast between the first two days, with only three wickets going down yesterday after Northamptonshire resumed on 191-7, was easily explained.

The ball did not nibble about as much, the pitch flattened out beneath the June sun, and, crucially, batsmen displayed application hitherto absent.

There was much less going hard at the ball and more of a soft-hands approach combined with positive footwork.

The result was a chalk-and-cheese outcome compared with the frenzied activity of Saturday’s play, when spectators had watched a whirlwind of wickets.

Northamptonshire’s lead was 55 at the start of the day, and you felt that if they could double it, they would at least have a chance of going on to record the shock result of the season so far, even though a much-stronger Yorkshire side on paper always remained most people’s favourites.

They did double it and a little more, elevating the hopes of a good-sized home crowd that included a stag party that tried to involve the rest of the ground in a Mexican wave – an invitation that was happily declined.

Ben Duckett and Ian Butler, the not out batsmen, had lifted the total to 200 when the eighth wicket fell in the day’s fourth over, Butler driving Steve Patterson low to Liam Plunkett at short extra.

Duckett went on, lifting his overnight 19 to a half-century made from 64 balls with nine fours, to show why he was part of England’s Under-19 World Cup squad during the winter.

He will not remember his dismissal with fondness, however, bowled for 51 trying to reverse-hit Adil Rashid’s first delivery.

The leg-spinner, not introduced until the 59th over, duly polished off the innings when he had Maurice Chambers caught at mid-on by Lees.

Rashid finished with 2-1 from two overs, former Northamptonshire pace man Jack Brooks the most successful bowler with 4-78.

Yorkshire began their second innings 45 minutes before lunch, Lyth beginning in typical fashion by unfurling some trademark cover drives and well-controlled pulls.

He had 29 of Yorkshire’s 43 at the interval and advanced to his half-century from 68 balls with eight fours. It was the sixth time in 10 Championship innings this season that Lyth had reached fifty, and this was the second time he has reached three figures.

He really dug deep as his hundred approached, spending 53 deliveries in the 90s, his loud yelp when he finally brought up his century with a cover-driven boundary off Andrew Hall perhaps a mixture of relief as well as delight. It was his 10th first-class hundred and a chanceless performance.

Lees, who went to fifty from 121 balls and to his hundred from 222 deliveries with 13 boundaries, offered just one chance.

He was dropped on 78 by Rob Newton at mid-wicket off the off-spinner Matthew Spriegel, while he was almost run-out on 76 after taking a quick single to mid-off off the same bowler.

Both batsmen, however, played magnificently well.

The natural balance of power in this match has been emphatically restored.