When ‘Alice in Wonderland’s’ Queen of Hearts instructed the Red Roses to dominate, she was undoubtedly referring to the biggest grudge match in county cricket. Her servants obeyed, as Lancashire got the better of Yorkshire in a thrilling encounter at Headingley.
The cricket, at times, was little better than average, but that was no cause for concern for two teams desperate for a win and cross-Pennines bragging rights for the foreseeable future.
When Headingley erupted in the penultimate over in response to Glenn Maxwell’s catch off Matthew Fisher’s bowling to dismiss dangerman James Faulkner it appeared that the Vikings had this one in the bag – but the crowd forgot about Jos Buttler.
The England wicketkeeper-batsman’s innings off 71 from 35 was the gem of the Lightning’s innings and secured them this vital win.
Coming to the crease in the 11th over with his team 82/2 would have allowed a batsman the chance to play himself in for a ball or two, but the mighty Buttler required no such cushioning – he smashed a six over into the community stand and set the tone of his innings from the outset.
When the first over of a T20 match plays out as 600444, orchestrated by one of the most accomplished T20 batsmen in world, one would be forgiven for thinking that this would be a walk in the park for the hosts.
While Roses matches are always saturated in hype, the presence of two Australian internationals playing alongside the England internationals made this particular meeting just a little juicier – it was the Vikings’ Maxwell who smashed that first over for 18 by the way.
His jaunt at the Headingley crease was to be short and sweet, however, as he attempted to launch a George Edwards delivery straight over the bowler’s head into the Rugby Stand but found the safe hands of Alex Davies.
While the host team appeared to struggle and lose wickets regularly, it was only Andrew Gale and the tail-enders who failed to make double figures. England’s Joe Root and Gary Ballance secured themselves a 63-run partnership in the middle overs to give them a much needed boost.
Ballance, for 31 from 18, played a short, sharp innings that ended with him sending a catch straight down Karl Brown’s throat in an over that opened with three fours on the bounce for his partner. Root, however, totted up 55 from 39 including nine fours, and allowed firstly Jonny Bairstow, then Ballance and finally Jack Leaning to play their own games at the other end.
Contrary to this, the Lightning’s innings seemed peppered with run-out chances and yet not one wicket fell by this method. To boot, all top-order batsmen secured themselves double-figure scores, it was just quite simply that they played a much more muted innings than their hosts, until the end that was.
Openers Ashwell Prince and Liam Livingstone worked to put Lancashire on 41 before their first wicket – Livingstone ct Adil Rashid b Maxwell – fell. Prince took some beating also, before a spikey delivery from the aforementioned Maxwell truly trapped for 32 off 29.
Karl Brown and Stephen Croft contributed 21 and 15 respectively before James ‘The Finisher’ Faulkner and Buttler were tasked with needing 45 runs from the last three overs. Despite Faulkner falling for just eight from four deliveries to the 17-year old Fisher, Buttler did it.
Fisher got Faulkner caught by Maxwell underneath the great glass press box that overlooks Headingley – quite a coup for the youngster – but his following two deliveries were launched decisively by Buttler for consecutive maximums. In an over that lasted eight deliveries, there were two wickets, two maximums, two wides and a run, it was the over that sealed it for the visiting team.
Tim Bresnan was tossed the ball for the final over and tasked with defending 17 but three opening length deliveries permitted Buttler three boundaries – one maximum. It all came down to the last ball and the placing by the hero of the evening meant the last run was relatively easy – although there was a courtesy shy at the stumps by a Viking.
When the captains came together at the toss and Croft called correctly to permit him the luxury of choosing to field first it seems Gale and his men were already on the back foot. When their innings ended on 185/8 and the spectators were gifted hindsight, it became clear that the Vikings spent most of their innings rebuilding and constantly pushing for a few more runs to prevent too much pressure being laid at their bowlers’ feet for the following innings.
186 should have really been more than enough for the host team to defend, but cricket is just one of those games where theory requires throwing out of the window.