Rookie George Hill shows his promise but Yorkshire struggle on County Championship return

GEORGE Christopher Hindley Hill.

Yorkshire's George Hill hits out. Pictures: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

It is the sort of name that betokens great things.

Born in Keighley and educated at Sedbergh, Hill is blessed with a majestic monicker.

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Whether he goes on to achieve the heights of some of Yorkshire’s famously three-initialed, the likes of CWJ Athey or NWD Yardley, is, of course, unknown at this stage.

Yorkshire's George Hill.

But GCH Hill has a certain ring to it, the suggestion of grandeur, the hint of magnificence.

At 20, Hill is nowt but a stripling – and a strapping one too – who is playing his fourth first-class game. But the presence and poise are unmistakably present, and he has the air of a man who looks the part, one who has had success with England U19s and is well regarded by the Yorkshire coaches.

If Hill had not quite provided unequivocal proof of his capabilities beyond such circles, he made everyone sit up and take notice here.

Hitherto, his 12 appearances for the club in first-class and T20 combined had brought 110 runs and three wickets, not quite enough to stir the juices of expectation.

At the same time, opportunity had not always been fulsome during those fixtures, with Hill batting down the order or not at all, and his medium pace had been fleetingly used.

However, promoted to open the batting at Wantage Road, with Tom Kohler-Cadmore injured and a number of players missing with England, Hill was the one shining light in an otherwise gloomy first innings batting display, top-scoring with 71 – his maiden first-class fifty – out of 158 all-out after Yorkshire won the toss and chose to bat before Northants finished on 61-2.

On a day when Yorkshire thus failed to achieve a solitary batting point for the fourth time in nine Championship matches this season, Hill upstaged more experienced colleagues. The tidy right-hander batted until the fourth over after tea, whereupon he seemed unlucky to be given out lbw pushing forward to the off-spin of Rob Keogh, with the ball appearing to strike him outside the line of off stump.

Hill faced 170 deliveries and struck eight fours and a six, showing strength on the drive and oomph on the pull, with the maximum the product of a confident move down the track to the left-arm spin of Simon Kerrigan followed by a lovely swing of the bat.

Above all, though, Hill made it his mission to bat time and to wait for the bad ball to arrive, the time-honoured template for first-class cricket, and he used his feet well against spin in defence as well as in attack.

“It’s a bit of a relief, to be honest,” said Hill of his innings. “I’ve played a couple of games in the past and didn’t really feel like I did a huge amount.

“I haven’t really opened before, so I thought I would go out there, give it my all and dig in. It’s not the easiest pitch to bat on, and I reckon 260 or 270 would have been a really good score.”

On a pitch used recently for three T20s, albeit it did not possess any obvious demons, Yorkshire did not distinguish themselves.

As watery sunshine came and went, they lost Adam Lyth in the fifth over when Ben Sanderson slanted one across him that took the edge, while Sam Northeast’s hopes of a successful start to his Yorkshire career – after signing on a three-match loan – soon went west when he nibbled to the wicketkeeper.

A sharp shower stole 35 minutes from the morning session, resulting in the loss of two overs, as Yorkshire lunched on 38-2 off 17.5. Hill grew in stature after the break, driving and pulling powerfully. He had a slice of luck on 31, dropped by Gareth Berg at second slip off Wayne Parnell after chasing a wide one, but it was not an aberration he threatened to repeat.

However, Gary Ballance top-edged a sweep off Kerrigan to backward square-leg, and Harry Brook paid for a similarly profligate shot off the same bowler, dancing down the track and finding mid-wicket. Yorkshire were 91-3 before Brook was out and the innings steadily lost its way.

Dom Bess was caught behind trying to defend. Harry Duke was trapped on the crease bang in front. Steve Patterson cut his second ball to point. Ben Coad was bowled all ends up, and Jordan Thompson fell lbw trying to attack with one wicket left. Six batsmen fell in single figures, with Hill scoring only one run fewer than the other 10 batsmen combined.

When Northants replied, Yorkshire initially struggled to locate their lengths.

But Bess broke the opening stand at 54, pinning Emilio Guy pushing forward, and Patterson had nightwatchman Kerrigan fending to short-leg.