Yorkshire herald arrival of Finch although Lees takes starring role

Yorkshire's Aaron Finch in action on Friday night against Derbyshire.
Yorkshire's Aaron Finch in action on Friday night against Derbyshire.
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“HEADINGLEY’s residents are boarding up their windows with corrugated iron.

“Above Headingley, flight paths are being redirected for the remainder of the NatWest T20 Blast season.

“Hard hats and armour are being prepared to be issued to all spectators.

“The club’s buildings and contents insurance has been ramped up a notch.

“All this can only mean one thing… Aaron Finch is in town.”

So proclaimed the Yorkshire County Cricket Club website after Finch arrived in England last Sunday.

To say he arrived with a glowing reputation is an understatement; the Australian is the world’s No 1-ranked T20 batsman.

To celebrate his debut against Derbyshire last night, and to safeguard spectators from the threat of his fireworks, Yorkshire sold special Aaron Finch tin hats in the club shop priced £2.50.

On Twitter, the club’s official feed referred to what it termed the “Finch Factor”, the magic ingredient Yorkshire hope will enable them to get their hands on the cup.

Although the marketing is heavily tongue-in-cheek, with the club naturally keen to trumpet the tournament’s top signing, not even Finch comes equipped with the guarantee of success.

Twenty20, by its very nature, is a hit-and-miss affair, and although Finch has proven himself considerably more hit than miss, he is bound to have off-days as well as red-letter ones.

This was neither one nor the other, the 27-year-old scoring 19 from 17 balls with a six and a four as Yorkshire thrashed bottom club Derbyshire by eight wickets with six overs to spare, thereby recording their first T20 win of the season in their third match.

Starved of the strike (Finch was not dismissed until the ninth over of Yorkshire’s reply after Derbyshire had scored a below-par 
127-6), he played second fiddle to Alex Lees, who marked only his third appearance in the format with an unbeaten 61.

Lees’s innings, which comprised 44 balls and contained nine fours, was characterised by authentic strokes more commonly seen in the first-class arena.

Flowing cover-drives, skilful steers, delicate dabs – all were there before a crowd of 5,628 on a dull but dry evening.

Jonny Bairstow chipped in with an unbeaten 29 from 16 balls with four fours, adding an unbroken 42 with Lees as Yorkshire cruised past poor opposition at a canter.

Earlier, Wayne Madsen’s 34 not out from as many balls had been Derbyshire’s top score, the visitors checked after a promising start by Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett, who each took two wickets, and by T20 debutant Ollie Robinson, the 20-year-old all-rounder, as well as by the evergreen Rich Pyrah.

But the day – if not the detail – was all about Finch, who admitted to experiencing one or two butterflies.

“I did feel a little bit nervous,” he said.

“There has obviously been a lot of hype around my first match, but you have to expect that and you certainly have to embrace it; otherwise, you don’t last long.

“My innings was a bit patchy, to be honest, but the crowd were great and very supportive of me and the lads.

“Alex Lees played some beautiful cricket shots, and when you get on a bit of a roll like he did, your job really is just to give as much of the strike as you possibly can.”

Finch and Lees added 64 for the second wicket in seven overs, the Australian striking his third ball in a Yorkshire shirt for six towards the Rugby Stand.

The stroke off the off-spinner Wes Durston saw the ball get stuck halfway up the black sightscreen, and it needed a steward to bring it back down to earth by shaking the sheet.

However, it soon became clear that there is much more to Finch than crash, bang, wallop, and that he could well offer much to the Championship side.

The gum-chewing right-hander, who looks like a pocket battleship as he stands at the crease awaiting the bowler, also displayed a solid defence and the ability to work the ball nicely into gaps.

Lees was the one who supplied the fireworks, giving the Yorkshire innings impetus after captain Andrew Gale had spooned to point in the second over.

Lees hit four successive fours off the pace bowler Mark Turner, whose second over contained five boundaries in all as Finch also flayed him for a one-bounce four in front of the pavilion.

Derbyshire’s bowling was erratic, and they were out of the contest by the time Yorkshire had ended their batting powerplay on 70-1 off six overs.

Finch fell with the total at 86, skying the spin of Marcus North high in the air to give his fellow countryman a towering catch.

Yorkshire’s catching was not at its best. Six went down in the Derbyshire innings of varying difficulty, batsman Jack Leaning the principal culprit.

The form of Robinson, however, was a bonus, as was that of Rashid, who returned his side’s best figures of 2-19, while Plunkett posed problems with his pace and power.

A good night all round for Yorkshire and a promising one for Finch, who suggested that the hype that surrounds him has not been misplaced.