Pyrah shines but Yorkshire fall short in disappointing T20 start

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HOW foolish of UEFA to stage an England football match on the same night that Yorkshire Carnegie began their Twenty20 Cup campaign against Durham Dynamos.

Those who opted for Headingley over Kiev were rewarded for their priorities – or perhaps lack of them – on a night when the teams dodged the rain clouds to play out an exciting game of crash-bang-wallop in gloomy West Yorkshire.

Joking aside, a combination of the televised football and forlorn weather was always likely to make for a disappointing crowd at Headingley Carnegie, and so it proved.

Only 2,309 were present to watch the home side go down by two runs, Yorkshire scoring 140-8 in reply to Durham’s 142-6 as the visitors held on by the skin of their teeth.

There is a strong sense within the Yorkshire camp and among a good many of the club’s supporters that this could finally be Yorkshire’s year in Twenty20.

We are now in the 10th season of the competition and Yorkshire are one of only three counties never to have reached finals day, Derbyshire and Worcestershire the others.

Although such optimism is certainly justified, Yorkshire will have to raise their game to achieve that target.

Their bowling performance was decent enough, but their fielding was not at its gleaming best, while their batting was let down by poor shot selection.

After winning the toss and choosing to field, Yorkshire made a promising start.

Former Yorkshire batsman Herschelle Gibbs fell to the 11th ball of the innings when he tried to launch Ryan Sidebottom into the Rugby Stand only to pick out Phil Jaques at mid-on.

Ben Stokes arrived to strike Sidebottom for three fours in four balls as he and captain Phil Mustard set about creating a platform, the pair adding 41 in five overs before Rich Pyrah pounced with his second ball back after a lengthy lay-off with a hand injury.

Pyrah had Mustard caught at deep cover by Mitchell Starc and, in an eventful first over, also had Stokes dropped on 19 by Andrew Gale at backward-point.

Stokes should then have been run-out at the non-striker’s end when Johann Myburgh pushed a ball from Pyrah back down the pitch only for Azeem Rafiq, fielding close in on the leg-side, to dwell an eternity over hitting the stumps.

Moin Ashraf removed Myburgh lbw to leave Durham 72-3 in the 11th over and then bowled Stokes for 36 as the visitors slid to 85-4.

It was impressive stuff from Ashraf, who was making his Twenty20 debut and who has performed encouragingly this year in the CB40.

Going into his fourth and final over, Ashraf had figures of 1-14, but they were dented at the death as 14 runs came off his last six balls, including a maximum off the final delivery as Dale Benkenstein connected sweetly over long-off.

Ashraf was not yet done, however, diving to his right to take a splendid catch at a deep-ish mid-off when Benkenstein made a hash of a full toss from Starc.

Starc dismissed Scott Borthwick lbw as the batsman tried to hit to leg on his way to figures of 2-21 from four overs, the most economical of the match.

Durham managed only 34 runs off the last five overs and their total looked to be somewhat short.

Yorkshire, however, were quickly in trouble.

In deteriorating light, which perhaps questioned the wisdom of bowling first, they lost Gale to the second ball of the innings when the captain tried to cut a delivery from Chris Rushworth that was perhaps too close to his body and which was held high at slip by Gordon Muchall.

The same combination did for new signing David Miller before former Yorkshire pace bowler Mitch Claydon got in on the act by having Gary Ballance lbw.

When Jaques was cleaned up by Graham Onions and Joe Root lbw to the same bowler, shuffling across his stumps, Yorkshire were in disarray at 42-5 in the eighth over.

But a fine stand of 57 in eight overs between Pyrah and Gerard Brophy got them back on track, the pair finding the boundary with regularity.

Pyrah was eventually held at deep mid-wicket after connecting sweetly with a fierce pull off Liam Plunkett; a fraction either side of fielder Muchall and it would have flown to the boundary.

Brophy was bowled trying to sweep the leg-spin of Borthwick, who then somehow contrived to knock Starc’s off and leg stumps out of the ground with his very next ball.

Rafiq and Sidebottom almost took Yorkshire home.

Eight runs were needed from the last five balls with two wickets in hand when Rafiq drove the first ball of the final over from Borthwick for six over long-off.

But bowler and team-mates kept their cool to steer Durham to victory.