Brophy the key ingredient after Yorkshire start season in style

MEMO to the Yorkshire hierarchy: give Gerard Brophy a new contract.

The 35-year-old South African, whose deal expires this year, scored an unbeaten 177 to inspire Yorkshire to a nine-wicket victory at New Road.

Brophy’s innings, his highest for the county, was the difference as Yorkshire completed a three-day win against a team whose stay in Division One looks likely to be brief.

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It also spared Yorkshire’s blushes after they slipped to 155-7 in reply to Worcestershire’s first innings 286, hoisting them to 368 before the home side capitulated spinelessly for 137 second time around, Adil Rashid claiming another five-wicket haul before Yorkshire knocked off the 56 they needed in 13 overs.

Playing as a specialist batsman, with Yorkshire having opted to entrust the gloves to Jonathan Bairstow, Brophy showed why the club should waste no time tying him to a longer deal.

It is one of county cricket’s anomalies that he has managed only eight first-class hundreds during a 116-game career, for his talent with the bat has never been in doubt.

Brophy averages a respectable 32 in first-class cricket and has played many an explosive innings in one-day cricket.

There is no reason he cannot carry on for some time yet and provide valuable service in a top-order adjusting to life without star batsman Jacques Rudolph.

Resuming on 284-7 yesterday, two runs behind, Brophy helped Yorkshire last out until 20 minutes before lunch as they eked out a pivotal lead of 82.

Brophy and Sidebottom raised an eighth-wicket stand already worth 129 to 149 before Sidebottom was first to fall, bowled by Matt Mason after adding 11 to his overnight 50.

Sidebottom’s score eclipsed his previous career-best of 54, made for Yorkshire against Glamorgan at Cardiff in 1998, and was only his second half-century.

The pace bowler’s stand with Brophy, which threatened the county’s eighth-wicket record against Worcestershire of 163 between George Macaulay and Abe Waddington at Leeds in 1927, turned the match.

As was the case on Saturday, a feature of Brophy’s work yesterday was his straight-driving, which could have been culled from the MCC coaching manual.

Some of his on-drives were Ricky Ponting-esque as he savaged an attack that had no answer to his power and placement.

Having begun the day on 118 (his previous best for Yorkshire was 103 against Warwickshire at Leeds last summer), Brophy almost eclipsed his career-best of 185 for South Africa Academy against Zimbabwe Cricket Union President’s XI at Harare in 1998.

There seemed little chance of him getting near that when he had 127 to his credit following Sidebottom’s dismissal, but Brophy expertly farmed the strike to come within four of his highest county score – 181 for Northamptonshire against Sussex at Hove back in 2004.

Steve Patterson chipped in with 10 before falling lbw to spinner Moeen Ali, but Brophy scored all the runs in a last-wicket stand of 43 with Moin Ashraf, who went lbw to Gareth Andrew for a 19-ball duck.

Brophy slipped into one-day mode when Ashraf arrived at the crease, improvising superbly as Worcestershire resorted to placing nine fielders on the boundary in an effort to keep him off strike.

Still Brophy found the fence – helped, it has to be said, by some rank Worcestershire fielding as Andrew and debutant Matt Pardoe allowed balls to slip through their grasp for four.

On one occasion, Brophy took the fielders out of the equation altogether when striking Andrew for a straight six into the Diglis End.

The last three Yorkshire wickets added 213, Brophy contributing 134 of those in a fairytale start to his benefit season. Having bowled well to put Yorkshire on the rack on day two, Worcestershire lost their way in a fashion that suggested odds of 1-20 on them being relegated are actually generous.

Mason and Damien Wright each claimed three wickets, but the lack of a frontline spinner and killer instinct cost them dear.

Worcestershire were always likely to fold in the face of even a decent two-figure deficit – and so it proved.

They lost three wickets before it had been cleared as James Cameron was lbw to Sidebottom rooted to the crease, Daryl Mitchell lbw walking into one from Patterson and Vikram Solanki strangled down the leg-side. Ali and Alex Kervezee added 49 in 10 overs, the former striking Rashid for a six over mid-wicket as Worcestershire sought to hit the leg-spinner out of the attack.

Rashid’s first three overs went for 27, but once he had Ali caught around the corner the 23-year-old made mincemeat of a batting line-up that raised the white flag.

He had Matt Pardoe caught at slip before Patterson picked up two quick wickets – including that of top-scorer Alex Kervezee (52) to reduce Worcestershire to 132-7.

Rashid rounded off the innings by having Damien Wright lbw offering no shot in the final over before tea, Worcestershire abjectly losing eight wickets in the session for 115 runs.

Rashid had Mason lbw with the first ball after tea to record his maiden 10-wicket haul in first-class cricket and then ended the innings by bowling Alan Richardson. It gave him 5-37 in the innings and 11-114 in the match – remarkable figures for a spinner at this time of year.

Joe Sayers went lbw to Richardson for two, but Adam Lyth (29) and Championship debutant Joe Root (21) averted further incursions, the latter pulling Mason for a leg-side six as Yorkshire sealed a comprehensive victory at around 5.30pm.