Yorkshire v Lancashire: Maxwell’s dynamism and despair bookend T20 defeat at Headingley
AS a 16,000 sell-out crowd looked on spellbound, Tim Bresnan charged in to bowl the final ball of a compelling contest.
The scores were level, with Lancashire 185-6 in reply to Yorkshire’s 185-8, and the tension around the ground was palpable.
The ball was arrowed into the pads of Jos Buttler, the Lancashire wicketkeeper, who scuffed it out to Glenn Maxwell at mid-wicket.
Buttler had to try for the single and Maxwell – with acres of time to take aim – shied at the stumps from about 12 yards with Buttler well short of completing the run.
Maxwell missed, Buttler made good his ground, and the Red Rose had prevailed in thrilling style.
As Buttler punched the air and began to celebrate, Maxwell slumped to the ground in despair.
The Australian stayed motionless for several moments.
Cricket can be the cruellest of games.
It was deserved reward for Buttler, whose unbeaten 71 from just 35 balls with five fours and five sixes led Lancashire to a win that had looked to have got past them.
At the halfway stage they were well-placed at 80-1 – two runs better than Yorkshire at that point – but they fell away to the extent that they needed 82 runs from the last six overs.
That they did it was almost entirely down to Buttler, whose remarkable striking plucked victory from the jaws of defeat.
He hammered 16 of the 17 runs needed from Bresnan’s final over, hitting the first three balls for 6,4, 4 to practically settle the issue.
Just as victory was just reward for him, so it was wretched luck on Maxwell, who played his part in an enthralling game.
The capacity crowd was still pouring in when Maxwell started the match in outrageous manner, reverse-hitting the opening delivery for six.
Steven Croft, bowling from the Kirkstall Lane end, pitched the ball just outside Maxwell’s pads and the all-rounder – changing hands from right to left in an instant – whipped it high over the cover boundary in front of the East Stand.
Maxwell also reverse-hit the fourth delivery for four behind square, placed the fifth to the cover boundary in authentic fashion and clipped the final delivery for four through mid-wicket.
At the end of that opening over, Yorkshire – asked to bat – were 18-0 and Maxwell’s strike-rate was 300 runs per 100 balls.
It was sensational stuff.
It could not last, of course, and it did not last.
Four balls later, Maxwell was gone, caught by Alex Davies at mid-off from a top-edged pull off George Edwards.
Maxwell had not added to his score on a night when his innings was a bit like your average English summer – fantastic while it lasted, but over in a flash.
Maxwell’s opening partner, Andrew Gale, was also out quickly. The captain, playing his 100th T20 match, has been in good form in the competition but he failed to mark his special occasion with a sizeable innings, yorked by James Faulkner as Yorkshire fell to 25-2 in the third over.
Jonny Bairstow holed out to deep mid-wicket before an enterprising stand between England’s Joe Root and Gary Ballance realised 63 in 37 balls.
Ballance hit three sixes in his 31 from 18 balls and was fourth out when he skied to deep extra-cover.
Root top-scored with 55 from 39 deliveries with nine fours as Yorkshire registered their highest T20 score against the old enemy, beating the 180-5 at Old Trafford last year and 180-6 at Headingley in 2012.
Root was fifth out at 155 when he was caught at cover off James Faulkner, who returned excellent figures of 3-27.
Bresnan chipped in with 12 and Jack Leaning thumped a brisk 22 as Yorkshire posted a challenging total on an excellent pitch.
The Lancashire reply started well as Ashwell Prince and Liam Livingstone added 41 for the first wicket inside five overs.
Livingstone, who memorably made 350 from 138 balls for Nantwich against Caldy earlier this year, was first to go, caught at third man by Adil Rashid after slicing a delivery from Maxwell.
Maxwell’s off-spin accounted for the second wicket when Karl Brown picked out Ballance at long-on and then the third wicket when Prince was trapped lbw.
Maxwell finished with 3-15 from three overs.
He did plenty of good things on an ultimately ill-fated night.
After Liam Plunkett had Steven Croft caught at long-off by Rich Pyrah, leaving Lancashire 141-4 in the 17th over and seemingly out of it, Maxwell also claimed a useful catch.
Faulkner, his Australian team-mate, picked him out at long-on off Matthew Fisher, who then had Alex Davies lbw.
It seemed that Yorkshire had the points in the bag but the brilliant Buttler had other ideas.
He finished one short of his T20 career-best after producing an innings to remember on a night that those present will never forget.
Scorecard: Page 5.