Yorkshire Vikings v Birmingham Bears: Knockout stages of Vitality T20 Blast beckoning for White Rose
Victory over Birmingham Bears at Headingley this evening would be their fifth in six matches and third in succession.
More importantly, it would see them into the quarter-finals for a second year running, while a tie or no-result might also be sufficient.
Should a follow-up win be achieved at Leicestershire on Sunday, in the last of 14 games in a group campaign longer than the Amazon River, Yorkshire would be guaranteed a home quarter-final at Headingley next week.
At least they have two bites at the cherry to get the job done – that of reaching the knockout stages of a tournament that they have yet to win in its 19-year history.
Not that head coach Ottis Gibson wants to see matters go down to the wire.
He knows that one big push tonight could ease any potential nerves ahead of Sunday’s game at Grace Road, with Leicestershire among the sides who could potentially still knock fourth-placed Yorkshire out of the top-four.
“We set out on a path at the beginning of the season to try and get to the quarter-finals and hopefully move on to Finals Day, and we have given ourselves a great chance,” said Gibson. “We know we’re playing some good cricket, and we’re happy with where we are.
“We have been consistent and solid in this competition. We have lost four games (to go with seven wins and a tie), and they have been pretty close. Two were rain-affected against Derbyshire, and one went down to the last ball against Lancashire.
“You also look at the chopping and changing we’ve had to do – the injuries, guys missing with England. It’s been impressive what the guys have done so far.”
Yorkshire’s most impressive display came against tonight’s opponents at Edgbaston three weeks ago. They won by 10 wickets with 7.1 overs left after dismissing the hosts for 101, one of four defeats suffered by the leaders to go with eight wins.
With just one point separating the two teams in the table, despite a gap of three places, the prospect of a home quarter-final is anyone’s to grab.
In fact, none of the top-four are yet mathematically certain of qualifying let alone of earning the right for a home game in the last-eight.
“To have a home quarter-final at Headingley would be fantastic for us,” said Gibson.
“We have a good record there, and the crowd would definitely be the 12th man, but Birmingham are in the same situation as us and it will be a very tough game.”
Yorkshire are set to welcome back Dawid Malan from international duty after the one-day series in Holland.
Malan hit 38 and fellow opener Adam Lyth 58 in that 10-wicket win away to Birmingham, the two experienced left-handers making easy work of the chase.
Meanwhile, it was a Yorkshire left-hander at the opposite end of the career spectrum, 20-year-old Finlay Bean, who took the eye for the club yesterday.
Bean made the first quadruple century in Yorkshire’s history in a record-breaking performance for the Yorkshire second team.
He hit 441 against Nottinghamshire at the Lady Bay sports ground a stone’s throw or two from the famous Trent Bridge, the highest individual innings ever achieved in the Second XI Championship.
It beat the previous record of 322 by a certain Marcus Trescothick, for Somerset against Warwickshire at Taunton in 1997, and the Yorkshire record of 273 not out by Richard Blakey against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road in 1986.
Bean scored his runs from 518 balls with 52 fours and three sixes out of a record Second XI Championship total of 814-7 declared.
The game was drawn as Nottinghamshire finished on 269-5 in their second innings after scoring 534 in their first.
Born in Harrogate and a product of York Cricket Club, Bean came up through the Yorkshire age-group system before reaching Academy and second team level.
He left the club at the end of the 2020 season but, after some impressive performances at York, earned himself a second bite at the cherry.
Bean is not under contract at Yorkshire (although that could change if the evidence of that performance is anything to go by) and he played as well as his huge score suggests.
Tall and strong, with a full range of shots, he batted for eight minutes short of 12 hours in a Herculean performance, James Wharton and Harry Duke also making centuries.
Tom Smith, the Yorkshire second-team coach, said: “Finlay batted brilliantly. It was not just his skill that was impressive, it was his concentration levels as well.
“Second-team cricket is all about creating opportunities, and Finlay certainly took his during this game.”