Yorkshire triumph but aware of need to improve

THIS is a key week for Yorkshire in their quest to reach the NatWest T20 Blast knockout stage.

Yorkshire's Andrew Gale hits out.

Three games in four days – more than one-fifth of the group campaign squeezed into just over 72 hours – was always likely to have an important bearing on their chances of making the quarter-finals.

As such, victory over Leicestershire represented the right start to the hat-trick of matches, which continue today against Durham at Headingley and away to Worcestershire on Friday.

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After Yorkshire scored 168-5 after being put into bat, they restricted Leicestershire to 154-8, prevailing comfortably in the end before a dismal crowd of 3,715 in gloriously hot and sunny weather.

Yorkshire’s total was founded on a half-century from Andrew Gale, who made 55 from 51 balls with five fours to emerge from a trough of form.

The Yorkshire captain had managed only 35 in his previous five T20 innings but he gave his side a promising platform.

Jonny Bairstow added to it with 29 from 24 deliveries, but it needed a sixth-wicket stand of 45 from 21 balls between Tim Bresnan and Rich Pyrah to get Yorkshire up to a competitive score.

They hammered 41 from the last three overs, Bresnan finishing on 29 from 17 and Pyrah 16 from nine as Ben Raine – a 22-year-old pace bowler – starred for the visitors with 3-25.

Leicestershire, who have lost six of their eight T20 games and are second-bottom of the North Group, were architects of their own downfall.

They were wretched in the field, conceding 24 extras including 12 byes leaked by wicketkeeper Ned Eckersley, and dropped four catches.

However, they should still have won after reaching 95-2 in reply in the 12th over.

But a succession of poor shots surrendered the initiative and enabled Yorkshire to turn the screw.

Greg Smith, the 25-year-old opener, top-scored with 56 from 49 but his dismissal – dollying up a catch to fine-leg while needlessly trying to improvise against Bresnan – summed up their night.

It left them 125-5 in the 16th over and with no one apparently left who could lead them home.

Adil Rashid (2-24) and Azeem Rafiq bowled well and Ryan Sidebottom well enough, but better teams would have punished Yorkshire.

They would be first to acknowledge there is room for improvement.

Unchanged after their 22-run defeat to Nottinghamshire on Saturday, Yorkshire began positively.

Gale lofted the fourth ball of the innings from Charlie Shreck to the mid-wicket boundary and guided the next for four advertently through cover.

Another brace of fours followed when Gale helped a ball from Josh Cobb around the corner and rocked back to cut Raine to the rope in front of the East Stand.

Yorkshire’s running between the wickets was aggressive and the visitors looked set for a wearying evening.

Eckersley was dire behind the timbers and dropped the first of his two catches when Gale, on 25, edged Shreck to his left.

From 41-0 in the sixth, Yorkshire lost two wickets in two balls to Raine when Aaron Finch was bowled trying to make room and Alex Lees lbw.

Yorkshire did not hit a boundary off the bat between the first ball of the third over and the fifth ball of the ninth, but accumulated steadily.

Bairstow injected impetus with a six over long-on off the spinner Jigar Naik, the ball sailing through the open door of the Sports Bar at the Rugby Stand end.

Bairstow fell attempting another big hit, ending a stand of 59 in seven overs with Gale, who was dropped on 49 by Cobb at cover off Naik. Next ball, Gale pushed a single that took him to his 15th T20 fifty and his fifth against Leicestershire.

Gale was stumped off Cobb and Adam Lyth held at deep mid-wicket, leaving Yorkshire 123-5 in the 17th over.

After Pyrah skied in the air and was embarrassingly dropped by Eckersley off Rob Taylor, who replaced Nathan Buck after he was withdrawn for bowling two high deliveries, Yorkshire applied the crucial late surge, Pyrah spilled once more when he turned Taylor to Scott Styris at short fine-leg.

Smith and Cobb added 61 for Leicestershire’s first wicket before Cobb lofted Rashid straight and was caught by a diving Finch after Lyth parried brilliantly on the boundary, as he had against Lancashire earlier in the tournament.

After Matthew Boyce was run-out following a mix-up over a single and Styris caught trying to sweep, Leicestershire went quietly.

Yorkshire’s fielding was outstanding throughout.

There is no team that can touch it on this form.