Yorkshire continue drive for the quarter-finals with late flourish

Yorkshire's David Miller hits out.
Yorkshire's David Miller hits out.
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“WHAT would you say is the best thing about Twenty20 cricket?” screamed the match day announcer.

“When it’s over for another season?” a journalist not far from this parish muttered to himself.

Although it is easy to be snide about Twenty20, with all its false gimmickry and bogus high spirits, there is no doubt that crowds have been down at this year’s competition.

Only 1,000 were present at Grace Road last night, and although that was perhaps as much a reflection on Leicestershire’s poor form, with the defending champions having lost four of five games going into this match, it also echoed the reality that the tournament has begun to look tired and in need of a shake-up.

While the marketing men put their brains to that one, Yorkshire’s cricketers carry on regardless.

Victory by four runs in one of the more exciting Twenty20 games was their fourth in sixth matches and sent them top of the North Group ahead of tomorrow’s showpiece fixture against Lancashire at Headingley Carnegie.

After being put into bat on a muggy evening, Yorkshire scored 151-9 from their 20 overs, David Miller making 37 and Rich Pyrah 35. Leicestershire hit 147-9 in reply to slip to a defeat that effectively ended their hopes of retaining their crown.

Amid pleasant sunshine in this soggiest of summers, Yorkshire made one change to the side that played out a rain-affected game on Sunday against Nottinghamshire at Scarborough.

Ryan Sidebottom was forced to withdraw with a calf injury, which meant a recall for leg-spinner Adil Rashid, while captain Andrew Gale’s ongoing absence with a hip problem meant Azeem Rafiq again led the team.

Proceedings commenced in wretched fashion when Nathan Buck delivered three wides in the game’s first over.

In the second over, bowled by Abdul Razzaq, Adam Lyth skied horribly to mid-wicket, where Greg Smith claimed the catch at the second attempt.

Buck’s second over, the fifth of the innings, was a much better effort and spawned two wickets in the space of five balls.

Joe Root was lbw to one that might have been drifting down leg-side before Phil Jaques slapped a wide delivery to Wayne White at point.

At that stage, Yorkshire were 35-3 in the fifth over, which would have become 37-4 had Gary Ballance not been fortunate to see a leading edge off Matthew Hoggard fly just over the head of the cover fielder.

As it was, Ballance and Miller added 39 for the fourth-wicket in seven overs before Ballance clipped a ball from Hoggard down the throat of Ramnaresh Sarwan at deep mid-wicket.

The innings, by then, was still seeking impetus, with Yorkshire 74-4 in the 12th over.

However, batting was never easy on a night when the ball did not appear to come on to the bat, while there was movement on offer in the sultry air.

Yorkshire were indebted to Miller and Pyrah for providing that impetus, the pair adding 45 for the fifth wicket in five overs before Miller skied Robert Taylor to extra-cover, where Hoggard judged a splendid catch.

Miller’s 37 arrived from 35 balls with five fours, while Pyrah’s 35 came from just 23 deliveries before he holed out to long-off in the final over. Pyrah had struck the first two balls of that last over, bowled by Razzaq, for six over mid-wicket – the strokes sounding like gunfire as they cannoned off his bat.

Gerard Brophy drove to mid-off before two wickets fell to the final two balls, Rashid run-out by Razzaq as he tried to steal a single and Rafiq caught behind.

Leicestershire made a solid start in reply as Razzaq and Josh Cobb added 38 for the first wicket inside six overs, but they lost momentum with two quick run-outs.

Razzaq was beaten by Starc from mid-wicket as the batsmen ran on an overthrow before Cobb was sent packing by Pyrah, who swooped when Smith pushed Rafiq to mid-wicket.

When Smith cross-batted a return catch to Rashid and Matthew Boyce was caught behind off Rafiq, Leicestershire were 79-4 in the 12th over and in a remarkably similar position to what Yorkshire had been.

Sarwan and White added 56 in six overs as the equation boiled down to 23 needed from the last three overs.

But two further run-outs, including that of Sarwan for 39, pegged Leicestershire back, with three wickets going down in Starc’s final over from which nine runs were wanted and only four arrived.