TO say that Yorkshire were the form team in white-ball cricket coming into this game is an understatement.
Alex Lees’s men had won 11 of their previous 13 matches to go top of the Royal London Cup North Group and to book their place in the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast.
They suffered a rare defeat yesterday, however, when Durham beat them by 15 runs.
Victory would have taken Yorkshire into the quarter-finals, but they are likely to get there whatever the outcome of their final group game against Warwickshire at Headingley today (2pm), and to secure a home tie into the bargain.
In breezy conditions in the north-east, with morning sunshine giving way to afternoon cloud, Yorkshire restricted Durham to 281-7 from their 50 overs.
Scott Borthwick top-scored with 84 – three short of his one-day career-best – and Michael Richardson hit 53, Durham finding belated impetus with 97 in the last 10 overs.
It was a testing target, and despite a valiant 92 from Tim Bresnan –also three short of his one-day career best, set only last week), Yorkshire could not quite pull it off.
Bresnan hit five fours and three sixes in a 97-ball innings, but only Travis Head (49) and Jack Leaning (35) also registered scores of note, Chris Rushworth taking 3-67 and Mark Wood 2-43.
Yorkshire lost another thing yesterday – the toss.
It was notable, for they lose the toss in white-ball cricket almost as often as they lose white-ball games; this was only the fourth time in 19 attempts that captain Lees was not so lucky – and the second time at Chester-le-Street after the King of Lesotho had flipped the coin while a guest of Durham CCC when the sides met here in T20 in June.
With leg-spinner Adil Rashid back with England, preparing for the Wednesday’s third Test against Pakistan at Edgbaston, Yorkshire recalled Karl Carver, the 20-year-old left-arm spinner.
Even without their England stars, Yorkshire had a formidable look, their side containing five current or former international players. It was one of those, in the form of Bresnan, who got them going yesterday, claiming the first wicket with the final ball of the sixth over.
The pace bowler had the dangerous Mark Stoneman edging behind from a waft outside off, wicketkeeper Andy Hodd doing the rest. On a dry-looking pitch, boundaries came a little too freely for Yorkshire’s taste, and Durham were 51-1 after ten.
But Yorkshire pegged them back well as only 29 came off the next 10 overs, including the wicket of Keaton Jennings, stumped off Azeem Rafiq.
Steve Patterson and Liam Plunkett – the pick of the attack – put the brakes on as Durham struggled to maintain a rhythm, their innings delving into retro territory at 100-2 at halfway.
As pressure built, Jack Burnham came down the track and rashly slapped a Carver full toss to mid-on, while Paul Collingwood scooped the same bowler to mid-wicket (Collingwood sustained a calf injury during his innings and was unable to lead his team in the field, Jennings taking over the captaincy).
It was only when Borthwick struck a flurry of boundaries off Rafiq that the shackles loosened, Borthwick playing positively to reach a 74-ball half-century after being dropped on 28 by a diving Leaning at mid-wicket off Patterson. Just when Borthwick looked set for a hundred he over-reached in trying to hook a bouncer from Plunkett that climbed on him outside off-stump, top-edging to Patterson at long-leg.
It was the first ball that Borthwick had faced after being forced to change his bat, which had comically broken in half, and further equipment repairs were needed when Plunkett struck Richardson on the helmet with a short delivery.
Richardson fell in the penultimate over when Bresnan plucked out a magnificent one-handed catch at short fine-leg off Patterson. Bresnan took the other wicket, that of Ryan Pringle, caught at long-off, but his figures were dented when 31 came off his last two overs.
Durham accelerated strongly at the death, but that spurt of pace also hinted at what might have been from their perspective.
David Willey hit Rushworth for six over mid-wicket early in Yorkshire’s reply before the same bowler had him caught behind driving with the score on 30.
Two balls later, Lees was bowled by the pacy Wood, and it should have been 41-3 but Head was dropped on six by Usman Arshad off his own bowling, diving to his right.
Head fought on to reach 49 before driving back a return catch to Borthwick, Adam Lyth having miscued a pull off Jennings into the hands of mid-on.
Bresnan and Leaning added 76 in 15 before Leaning steered Wood to backward-point, and Yorkshire slipped to 218-6 in the 44th when Hodd was run-out.
When Plunkett skied to backward point, it was Bresnan or bust, and although he produced plenty of long handle at the end, his departure to a catch at deep mid-wicket in the 48th over settled the issue.