Yorkshire head off problem and sign Lehmann

Darren Lehmann, pictured during practice on the Headingley pitch ahead of the one-day international against England- chatting to Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie.Darren Lehmann, pictured during practice on the Headingley pitch ahead of the one-day international against England- chatting to Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie.
Darren Lehmann, pictured during practice on the Headingley pitch ahead of the one-day international against England- chatting to Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie.
COMETH the hour, cometh the Lehmann.

Having lost Travis Head, their overseas player, for the crucial closing weeks of the season, Yorkshire have turned to a familiar name to help them out in their time of need.

Jake Lehmann, a 24-year-old left-hand batsman, is the son of Darren Lehmann, the former Yorkshire player and current Australia head coach.

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Lehmann junior has been signed for the final six County Championship games as Yorkshire target a hat-trick of titles, and he will make his debut in the Roses match at Old Trafford on Saturday.

However, regulations prevent him from being parachuted into the knockout stages of the Royal London Cup and the NatWest T20 Blast, with Yorkshire having reached the quarter-finals of both tournaments.

Yorkshire will miss Head’s influence in the 50-over and 20-over formats, after he was called up for Australia’s tour of Sri Lanka, but they believe that Lehmann is a top young player who can help their push for the Championship crown.

Although he has played only 11 first-class games, Lehmann averages over 40 and has hit three hundreds for South Australia, the highest of them an innings of 205 against Tasmania at Hobart in the Sheffield Shield last November.

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Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first-team coach, worked with him last winter at the Big Bash franchise Adelaide Strikers, and he had no hesitation in recommending to Yorkshire someone he has known for many years.

“I’ve known Jake since he was a kid,” said Gillespie, who is a close friend of the Lehmann family.

“I remember bowling to him in the nets when he came to state practice; he was 14, and I thought I would just come in and bowl a nice easy delivery to the young fella, and he just absolutely smote me through the covers and all the boys started laughing at me.

“‘Boof’ (Darren Lehmann) and I are great mates, and I’m really good mates with Jake too, and the one thing I was conscious of when I spoke to Yorkshire about Jake was that I don’t want to be seen to just be promoting the people I know.

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“Some people may think, ‘Gee, this is a big call’, or whatever, but you only have to spend time with the young man to know that you’ve got a very determined character and someone who is desperate to perform, and I wouldn’t put my name to people like Travis Head, people like Jake Lehmann, if I didn’t think they were going to be an asset to Yorkshire.”

Gillespie described it as “an opportunity of a lifetime” for Lehmann to play for “the most famous cricket club in the world”.

His surname will guarantee him the goodwill of the Yorkshire supporters, with his father having been one of the greatest players in the club’s history.

In 88 first-class games for Yorkshire between 1997 and 2006, Lehmann senior scored 8,871 runs at 68.76, with 26 hundreds and 43 fifties, famously scoring 339 on his final appearance against Durham in 2006.

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His record in List A cricket was not too shabby either – 5,229 runs in 130 games at 49.33, with eight hundreds and 38 fifties.

Comparisons will inevitably follow Jake throughout his career, but Gillespie stressed that father and son are “different players” and quipped that the biggest similarity is that they both bowl “filthy left-arm spin”.

“There’s naturally going to be comparisons, and it’s nice that he’s following in the footsteps of his dad, but Jake is his own man and he wants to be judged on his performances as Jake Lehmann, not as Darren Lehmann’s son,” said Gillespie.

“Darren himself wanted to stay well and truly out of this process and didn’t want Yorkshire to sign Jake just because he’s his son, but to sign him on merit, which is what we’ve done.

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“I’m sure the family connection will give Jake a lot of goodwill from the Yorkshire fans, and that they will give him a wonderfully warm welcome.

“But he wants to be judged on his output as a batsman, and I’m very confident that he can do a magnificent job.”

Lehmann, who has been playing for Australia A, is due to leave Adelaide today after Yorkshire moved swiftly after Head’s call-up by Australia on Monday.

Lehmann holds a British passport through his family, which expedited the process in terms of travel paperwork, and Gillespie speaks highly of his skills as a batsman.

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“Jake plays aggressively and looks to play his shots,” said Gillespie. “He’s played a full season of first-class cricket for South Australia and hit three centuries including a double, so the kid’s got a bit about him.

“He hasn’t played a lot of first-class cricket, but he’s got the nous, the know-how, and he understands the game well and reads it well.

“I spoke to Travis Head at length about him – Travis is his captain at South Australia – and he said, ‘‘Dizzy’, ‘Leemo’ will not let you down, mate, he’s a great lad’.”

Reflecting on Head’s short time with Yorkshire, Gillespie said: “Travis did a great job, and we’re buzzing that he’s got this recognition with Australia.

“It’s another feather in the cap of Yorkshire in that he’s come over here and put performances on the board, and it’s great that county cricket is recognised as a quality competition.”

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