Yorkshire CCC see Worcestershire seal promotion before Storm Agnes sweeps in

IN their dark coats and stillness, the smattering of spectators high up in the sheer white seats of The Howard Stand looked like flies resting on a wall.

From the pavilion opposite, it appeared that some of them might even be dead, only for an occasional arm to twitch or reach down towards a bag or holdall, perhaps to withdraw a flask or a copy of The Yorkshire Post.

Above them, the sky, a kind of heavily-stained grey, was so claustrophobic-looking that one wouldn’t have been surprised had it closed in completely right down to ground level.

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That would have been curtains for the floodlights, of course, which beamed so brightly that one could have been at a Saturday afternoon football match in deepest midwinter, sipping on Bovril and tapping one’s feet fiercely in an effort to stay warm.

Adam Lyth in action for Yorkshire. Picture by John Heald.Adam Lyth in action for Yorkshire. Picture by John Heald.
Adam Lyth in action for Yorkshire. Picture by John Heald.

It was shortly after lunch, around 1.30pm, that this snapshot of Headingley was gloomily visible, the players having left the field for bad light, never to return.

Who thought that it would be a good idea to play County Championship cricket at this time of the year?

Answers on a postcard, please, to the England and Wales Cricket Board.

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Throw in something called “Storm Agnes”, the latest meteorological sensation that had swept in from the Atlantic, and the bad light was quickly followed by rain, an escalation in wind levels (even beyond the Hawke Suite), and much regret for anyone who had left home without an umbrella or a waterproof of some sort.

Yorkshire's Fin Bean. Picture by John Heald.Yorkshire's Fin Bean. Picture by John Heald.
Yorkshire's Fin Bean. Picture by John Heald.

Still, at least we got 29 overs out of a possible 104, with eight having been added in an effort to make up for time lost earlier in the match.

During this period (ironically, the morning did witness some sunshine), Worcestershire advanced from their overnight 280-5 to 389 all-out, Yorkshire replying with 24-0 as the game spluttered and stuttered to its halfway point, albeit still with every chance of producing a result.

When Worcestershire reached 300 shortly before 11am, thereby securing a second batting bonus point, it confirmed their promotion back to Division One.

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No sooner had Josh Baker’s push for two into the offside off Matt Milnes sealed the achievement than the Worcestershire balcony erupted in celebration, the achievement sportingly applauded by the Yorkshire team too.

Ben Coad takes a catch at short fine-leg to dismiss Joe Leach off Dom Bess. Picture by John Heald.Ben Coad takes a catch at short fine-leg to dismiss Joe Leach off Dom Bess. Picture by John Heald.
Ben Coad takes a catch at short fine-leg to dismiss Joe Leach off Dom Bess. Picture by John Heald.

The only sadness for the visitors was that Brett D’Oliveira, the captain, was out with the total on 299, one short of the magic figure.

He deserved to be there for the moment of triumph, having just completed a fine century that was the definition of a captain’s innings, only for Milnes to trap him leg-before for 103 - Milnes’s first wicket since April after a stress fracture of the back.

Perhaps affected by the emotion of it all, Baker, having played the history-making stroke, fell to Milnes’s next ball, a leading edge to Matty Revis at mid-on.

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It was the best two runs that Baker will ever score, runs sure to have been applauded from Malvern to Evesham and all points between.

Credit, too, to Ben Allison, who contributed a career-best 75. The young all-rounder, who had 31 to his name overnight, advanced to an 87-ball half-century as he showed himself to be strong through the leg-side and against anything short, which he dispatched with aplomb.

Tall and powerful, Allison sent one straight drive bursting through Jordan Thompson’s hands on its way to the boundary, the bowler perhaps taken by surprise. It took a full-length delivery from Dom Bess to sneak through Allison’s defences, the spinner striking from around the wicket, and when Ben Gibbon was then lured forward and caught behind off Revis, Worcestershire were 383-9.

The innings ended when Joe Leach, following a jaunty 36 that contained six boundaries, including a straight six off Bess, top-edged the same man to Ben Coad at short-fine leg.

Bess bowled well, the most successful performer with 3-55.

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It left Yorkshire with 25 minutes’ batting before lunch, time enough for Adam Lyth and Fin Bean to continue their fine run of form. They took the score to 24 in the six overs before the break, Bean twice off-driving Dillon Pennington to the West Stand boundary and Lyth twice cover-driving Leach to the East Stand rope as a sparse crowd applauded.

There was time for only one more over after lunch before bad light intervened, although one did wonder how the light could possibly have deteriorated sufficiently in that period for umpires Steve O’Shaughnessy and Surendiran Shanmugam to take the players back off the field.

If the light was good enough when they walked out there (and it looked woeful), then what was the point of going out in the first place?

Answers on another postcard, please, to the England and Wales Cricket Board.