Andrew Gale praises Yorkshire’s character after victory at Kent

“WE need to be better,” admitted captain Steve Patterson after Yorkshire drew their opening game against Glamorgan, and although this was not a perfect performance without stain or blemish, it was a considerable improvement as Kent were beaten by 200 runs.

David Willey (L) is congratulated after taking the final Kent wicket. Pictures: Max Flego
David Willey (L) is congratulated after taking the final Kent wicket. Pictures: Max Flego

This was much more like it from Patterson and his players, who were slow out of the blocks at Headingley last week.

Here they found their stride in the Canterbury sunshine, which belied the bitter temperatures in which the game was played, and justified their favourites tag in Conference group three, producing a hard-fought, efficient display with victory coming deep in the final session.

Although some players caught the eye more than most (notably Adam Lyth, Joe Root and Harry Brook with the bat, and David Willey, Jordan Thompson and Patterson with the ball), it was very much a team effort.

Yorkshire's Jordan Thompson (R) celebrates taking the wicket of Joe Denly.

That will encourage Patterson for the long months ahead, with squad strength vital to a Championship challenge, and create confidence that anyone can step up at crucial times rather than the team relying on one or two individuals.

“I thought we showed a great attitude towards the game,” said first team coach Andrew Gale after victory was achieved with 19.2 overs to spare, with Kent bowled out for 244 after starting day four on 33-2 in pursuit of a notional 445.

“Last week we were well below par. We were pretty honest with ourselves. We didn’t do ourselves justice and we wanted to see a reaction this week, and the lads pretty much won every session in the game, so I’m really pleased the way they went about things.

“It shows character to turn things around like they have done, and to win in the fashion we did. It was a tough slog, to take it to the last session of the game. It was hard yakka, as they say, so I thought the lads stuck at it really well.”

Yorkshire's Jordan Thompson (L) celebrates after taking the wicket of Jack Leaning.

Lyth was man-of-the-match, his 97 and 116 underpinning 300-plus totals in both innings (another nudge in the direction of Ed Smith of Kent), but Yorkshire’s spur on day four was Jordan Thompson.

The 24-year-old all-rounder - who missed the Glamorgan game with a calf injury - provided the necessary impetus once again having captured the key wicket of Zak Crawley on the third evening.

After David Willey struck with the day’s fourth ball, bowling Daniel Bell-Drummond, Thompson got to work after replacing the England all-rounder at the Pavilion End.

First he had Joe Denly caught behind when the batsman got into something of a pickle shaping to defend a straight delivery into the leg-side, and then he took the wicket of former Yorkshire batsman Jack Leaning as Kent slipped to 86-5.

Having perished for a third-ball duck in the first innings, caught behind off close friend Patterson, Leaning went for a six-ball duck this time when edging to first slip. It was the second pair of his first-class career, the other having come against Surrey at Scarborough in 2019 in his final season as a Yorkshire player.

The Canterbury pitch was slow and flat, with wickets hard won throughout.

Intending no disrespect to Matt Milnes, the strongly-built seamer, that was highlighted by the fact that he batted from just before stumps on day three as nightwatchman to eight overs into the final session on day four, scoring 78, his maiden half-century, to raise Kent’s hopes of forcing a draw.

Milnes, whose previous best was 43, frustrated Yorkshire – none more so than during a sixth-wicket stand of 62 with Ollie Robinson either side of lunch that lasted for 32 overs and a little under two hours, changing the course of what had looked like being a one-sided day.

It was not particularly clear where a wicket was coming from while they were together; then Duanne Olivier tempted Robinson into a loose drive outside off stump and wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall snaffled the chance.

Milnes shared in a seventh-wicket stand of 75 with Darren Stevens before the second new-ball at last accounted for the plucky nightwatchman. Willey shaped one back into the pads and umpire Ian Gould upheld the appeal, Milnes departing to warm applause from the Kent balcony after an innings that spanned 210 balls and contained 14 fours.

Still Yorkshire could not feel that the game was won until they had got rid of Darren Stevens, who will probably still be gracing this ground at the age of 50. A player who turns 45 this month seemingly gets better with age, and there was appropriate relief when, in Willey’s next over, the grand old man of Kent cricket drove fiercely to Root at mid-off, having scored 47 from 82 balls with seven fours.

Willey’s fifth wicket finished things off, Miguel Cummins pinned lbw just before the clock ticked round to 5pm, with Harry Podmore unable to bat owing to the side strain that he suffered while bowling on the first day.

It was Willey’s first five-wicket haul for Yorkshire in first-class cricket, his performance in this match a significant highlight for a county which has seen little of him in this format of the game owing to various injuries and white-ball commitments.

“I’m pleased for Dave,” said Gale. “We’ve always known he had the potential to be a good red-ball cricketer. The problem’s always been he’s either been called up by England or he’s been injured, or he just hasn’t had enough overs under his belt. Having a left-armer who swings the new ball is a massive asset.”

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