Leaning’s maiden century helps give Yorkshire scent of victory

Yorkshire's Jack Leaning celebrates his century with Tim Bresnan (right).
Yorkshire's Jack Leaning celebrates his century with Tim Bresnan (right).
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ANOTHER day, another young Yorkshire cricketer making the headlines.

On Monday, 22-year-old Alex Lees enhanced his growing reputation with his seventh first-class hundred.

Yesterday, 21-year-old Jack Leaning enhanced his with his maiden first-class century.

Yorkshire may giveth and England may taketh away, but still Yorkshire keep producing these talented young players.

For the benefit of anyone unaware, Yorkshire have six players on tour with England in the West Indies at present.

One of them, Adil Rashid, has been the subject of an official request by Yorkshire to have him return home for Sunday’s match against Warwickshire after he was again left out of the Test team yesterday.

While Yorkshire await the decision of Peter Moores, the England head coach, with whom director of cricket Martyn Moxon was liaising on the telephone yesterday, their heavily depleted side is engaged in one of the toughest fixtures of the season on paper.

After a disappointing start, when they conceded 393-7 on day one after winning the toss, Yorkshire have battled back so well that you imagine they would probably still be competitive if England chose 11 Yorkshiremen in their Test XI.

Leaning, a tall and powerful right-hander, is the latest to emerge from the ranks of batsmen who have come up through the Yorkshire Academy, a player for whom this might just prove to be a breakthrough season.

Technically, Leaning – son of former goalkeeper Andy – broke through last season when he played 10 Championship games that brought him 465 runs at 38.75.

He did a good job initially at 
No 3 and then at No 6, with a highest score of 99 against Sussex at Arundel.

The lack of a three-figure innings was a source of frustration to him – Leaning did, however, hit 111 not out against Essex at Scarborough in the Royal London One-Day Cup – but he finally reached the landmark yesterday in a Championship match – and against a very good attack too. It was a performance that belied his tender years, a mature and measured innings that took full account of a match situation in which Yorkshire, initially, were behind the eight-ball.

Leaning defended stoically, particularly against the second new ball, pulled strongly and drove crisply through the ‘V’, all the time getting his head right over the ball and playing as late as possible.

When he was finally stumped trying to drive the left-arm spin of Samit Patel through the offside, the victim of a typically smart piece of work by Chris Read, the wicketkeeper, Leaning had scored 116 and Yorkshire were 427-8 in reply to Nottinghamshire’s 428.

The visitors were eventually dismissed for 441, Nottinghamshire closing day three on 74-3, a lead of 61.

“It’s nice to get the monkey off my back from last year of 99 at Arundel,” said Leaning, who believes Yorkshire can yet force the win.

“It’s a nice place to play cricket (Trent Bridge) and I’m glad to get that first hundred under my belt.

“I had a good pre-season, and I’ve just tried to take that form into the season proper.

“Luckily it came off (yesterday), and hopefully our bowlers can go bang, bang in the morning and we can have a repeat of what happened when we won at Worcester last week.”

Leaning began the day unbeaten on three with Yorkshire 226-3, 202 behind.

The day was sunny and unseasonably warm, and Yorkshire suffered an early setback when Andrew Gale failed to add to his overnight 13, well caught by Riki Wessels at first slip diving low to his right after the captain got turned around by a full-length delivery from Harry Gurney.

Leaning was lucky to survive a Chinese cut just past his stumps off Gurney, which hinted at the problems posed by an attack that found just enough movement, but he knuckled down and gradually grew in stature.

In tandem with Rich Pyrah, he steered Yorkshire through a challenging period as they took their team into lunch on 322-4.

After the break, the duo seemed to attack deliberately – a strategy encapsulated when Leaning lofted Patel over long-on into the Radcliffe Road Stand to raise the 100 stand.

The partnership was worth 111 in 31 overs when Pyrah fell at 346, caught at mid-wicket off a mistimed pull off Vernon Philander.

In Philander’s next over, Andrew Hodd played-on before Tim Bresnan arrived to give the innings renewed momentum.

Bresnan looks in fine form with the bat and he contributed 34 to a stand of 69 in 18 overs with Leaning before perishing to a slip catch off Patel, Yorkshire losing their last four wickets for 19 runs to prevent any hopes of a sizeable lead.

Patel, who also had Matthew Fisher lbw after Jack Brooks was caught at backward-point off Gurney, is something of an enigma, but he is an enigma with plenty of variations and he toiled hard here for figures of 4-102 from 32.5 overs.

When Nottinghamshire batted again, Fisher had Mullaney lbw and he would have had a second scalp had Leaning – normally as safe as houses in the slips – not dropped Alex Hales before he had scored.

The miss was not costly, Bresnan having the first innings double-centurion caught behind for two before Jack Brooks uprooted Brendan Taylor’s off stump and celebrated wildly.

Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie admitted he was not totally happy with his side’s display, but heaped praise on Leaning.

“We weren’t at our best on the first day, but I couldn’t be more pleased at how we’ve gone on days two and three and to get those wickets towards the end of the day is a real bonus, going into the final day,” he said.