Matthew Fisher swings game in Yorkshire’s favour at Durham
To list them all would be to go through most of the ailments known to man: stress fractures, broken thumbs, dislocated shoulders – if it is possible to get it, Fisher has had it.
But when fortune smiles on this son of York, and his fast bowler’s body does not let him down, it is clear to see why he is rated highly.
On a day when Yorkshire were left to chase 171 for victory, reaching 103-3 at stumps on day three, Fisher began his devastating work 10 overs into the afternoon session from the Finchale End.
With Durham chairman Sir Ian Botham an interested observer, watching from the upper tier of the Don Robson Pavilion away to Fisher’s left, the hosts were 221-3 in their second innings, 125 ahead, and the ground was bathed in lovely sunshine.
With his first ball, Fisher produced a vicious inswinging yorker to the left-handed Alex Lees, which the former Yorkshire batsman knew little about as he jammed his bat down just in time to squirt it out to the fine leg boundary.
Then, from the final ball of the over, Fisher produced another vicious inswinger which cannoned off Lees’s pads and into his off stump to remove him for 106, made from 263 balls in just under six-and-a-half hours, his 16th first-class hundred and fourth for Durham since leaving Yorkshire two years ago.
Fisher followed that success by producing what is likely to be the ball of Yorkshire’s shortened season – at least in terms of dramatic result.
He knocked out the middle and leg stumps of Jack Burnham with another searing yorker and, just for good measure, left the batsman on all fours in the process, as though he had been simultaneously shot by a sniper.
Fisher then had Ned Eckersley lbw to a full-length ball and Paul Coughlin lbw to another inswinger.
It was devastating stuff – as devastating as anything that Fisher has delivered in a Yorkshire shirt – and was followed by a brace of wickets for Jordan Thompson, who bowled a driving Ben Raine and then had Matty Potts caught in regulation fashion at first slip by Tom Kohler-Cadmore.
After Gareth Harte and Chris Rushworth added 27 for the final wicket, the value of which is unknown at this stage, Yorkshire captain Steve Patterson rounded things off by trapping Rushworth lbw – just as Patterson had taken his side’s first wicket of the day in the sixth over after lunch when he pinned David Bedingham.
Prior to that, and in spite of their spirited efforts with the ball, it had been a disheartening day for the visitors as Durham advanced from their overnight 106-2 to 207-2 thanks to a third-wicket stand between Bedingham and Lees that realised 136 in total in 47 overs.
As Lord Botham, as he will soon be called, looked on in a blue T-shirt and khaki shorts, accompanied by his wife, Kathy, the Durham pair were unperturbed in the morning session on a pitch that seemed slow and not particularly helpful to bowlers.
Lees went into lunch on 92, his innings evoking his best days at Yorkshire in the mid-2010s, and there was a sporting pat of congratulation from Patterson when his old colleague reached his century after the break.
The move to Durham has invigorated Lees – he left Headingley on the back of a miserable run of form that saw him score just 79 runs in 12 innings at an average of 6.58 – and Yorkshire’s supporters will wish him well.
After tea, when Yorkshire started their second innings with 34 overs left in the day, the theme of tumbling wickets initially continued when Rushworth struck twice to send back Adam Lyth and Will Fraine lbw, both of whom aggregated 14 in the match.
Kohler-Cadmore and Dawid Malan added a nerve-settling 52 for the third wicket before Rushworth returned to trap Kohler-Cadmore lbw, his 500th first-class wicket.
When Yorkshire signed Malan during the close season, it was for his skill and experience and ability to rise to this type of challenge.
The left-hander played in calm and controlled fashion, taking the sting out of the situation as surely as a peacemaker breaking up a disturbance in a pub, stroking two fours off Rushworth along the way – two on the offside, two on the on.
Malan did have one slice of luck – he was dropped on 32 by Sean Dickson at first slip off Raine, which would have left Yorkshire 75-4 – but he ensured that Fisher’s great work did not go to waste with an undefeated 50 from 85 balls, receiving staunch support from Harry Brook (23 from 52).
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