Leaning determined to stay put

WITH the sun beating down on this most picturesque of grounds, there can surely have been no finer setting yesterday to enjoy a day’s cricket than at Arundel.

Jack Leaning.
Jack Leaning.

Jack Leaning must agree with that sentiment after showing tremendous poise and patience to hit a career-best 75 not out as Yorkshire edged steadily into a position from where it may well be possible to push on towards victory.

The White Rose county ended an absorbing, if at times attritional, second day 108 runs adrift of Sussex with seven wickets in hand.

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A scoring rate of just 2.33 runs per over points to life not being easy and that was certainly the case on a surface so slow that attacking strokes are often proving to be a batsman’s downfall.

Yorkshire had to dig in to such an extent that there were several periods when it seemed the two electronic scoreboards at either end of this wonderful arena had frozen.

Much of this was down to the pinpoint accuracy of Steve Magoffin and the enticing spin of James Tredwell, the recent arrival on loan from Kent.

The duo bowled marvellously in tandem, getting the balance just right between pinning the opposition down and asking probing questions.

Leaning, therefore, deserves tremendous credit for the manner in which he took on the challenge of Magoffin and Tredwell in what is only his fifth County Championship appearance.

He faced 215 deliveries in a marathon innings lasting a little under four hours and eked out eight boundaries en route to comfortably exceeding his previous best of 52 not out, set just a couple of weeks ago in the resounding win at Northamptonshire.

With Leaning also hitting an admirable 41 against a Nottinghamshire attack led by Peter Siddle, clearly the Academy product is enjoying life in the first team after being drafted in to replace Kane Williamson once the New Zealand international headed to the West Indies for the on-going Test series.

He said: “It wasn’t easy to score out there because the pitch is slow and we have been facing some good bowlers.

“But, on a personal level, it was nice to get my highest score. Hopefully, I can come back in the morning and go on to a hundred.

“It won’t be easy, as the pitch is starting to break up and turn. The key is to keep switched on and, hopefully, me and Jonny (Bairstow) can build on that and push things on.”

A total of 224 runs in a full day’s cricket may not sound too exciting in an era when the bish, bash, bosh of Twenty20 has changed many mindsets. But yesterday was still an enthralling affair.

The game ebbed and flowed as bat gave way to ball before, suddenly, the batsmen would regain an air of superiority.

Sussex’s time on top invariably came when Magoffin was bowling in tandem with Tredwell, who elicited sufficient spin from the pitch to suggest he may well have a big role to play in the fourth innings. Just where the game will be by then depends very much on how Yorkshire start today.

Certainly, Andrew Gale’s men have a promising foundation on which to build a commanding lead.

After Alex Lees had been harshly adjudged to be lbw to a rising delivery in the final over before lunch, Lyth and Leaning put on 73 for the second wicket in dogged fashion.

The pair, after initially being tied down by Magoffin and Tredwell, took advantage when Sussex captain Ed Joyce had no option but to turn to his less threatening bowlers and it was only when frustration got the better of Lyth shortly before tea that the partnership was broken.

An attempted hook shot was Lyth’s downfall, the left-hander top-edging a short delivery from Magoffin to the safe hands of Jon Lewis in the deep.

Gale then departed for just five, the White Rose captain being deceived by Tredwell as the ball spun round his legs and on to his stumps.

At the time, Yorkshire were 139-3 and the fear for another sizeable contingent of supporters in a crowd of 2,500 who hailed from the Broad Acres was that a couple more quick wickets could have put their side in trouble.

Instead, Leaning and Bairstow, the latter clearly intent on pushing the score along more rapidly, saw the visitors through to the close with an unbroken partnership of 69 in a little under 28 overs.

If Yorkshire can accelerate today and build a healthy lead then the joy of enjoying cricket in such a marvellous setting will be added to by having claimed a valuable victory.

Scoreboard: Page 23.