Matthew Fisher is in the middle of his AS Levels. He’s seventeen. He is not available for selection in the County Championship so he can revise and sit for his exams. In a competition dominated by talk of foreign stars, franchises to trim player and team numbers, he produced a bowling spell for the ages to wreck Derbyshire in the first Twenty20 under lights at Headingley.
When he was brought into the bowling attack, Derbyshire were 66-1, Hashim Amla was exploiting the short leg-side boundary with his trademark wristy brilliance, and Chesney Hughes was taking the fight to Yorkshire’s senior bowlers. Tim Bresnan had hit his straps well with the new ball, but at the Kirkstall Lane End, Gale had to rotate his bowlers frequently as Jack Brooks and Liam Plunkett were plundered for 34 runs from their three overs from that end. Hughes had just timed a firm pull off Bresnan to bring up the first six of the night.
Fisher’s first ball was full, and Chesney Hughes defended it. Hughes doesn’t defend two balls in a row very often, and the second delivery must have looked more hittable. He slapped hard at it, and Rich Pyrah took a stinging catch at backward point. If the plan had been to hit the youngster out of the attack, it had failed.
When Amla hit Pyrah to extra cover in the next over, Gale must have been tempted to bring Adil Rashid back into the attack to turn on the screws. But Fisher was given the nod, and his captain was not disappointed. He bowled tight lines and lengths, and he was too quick and full for Shiv Thakor, who was trapped on the crease for four.
With figures of 2-9 off his first two overs, Fisher was taken off. While he was taking a break, Rich Pyrah took an agile, forward-springing catch to get rid of Billy Godleman off his own bowling, and then another head-high take off Adil Rashid to leave Derbyshire 81-6.
The time came for the death overs. Bresnan? No. Brooks? No. Fisher was in. Andrew Hughes miscued the first ball of his over, presenting a simple caught and bowled. Fisher had three on debut. Poynton deposited him over the short boundary for six, but Fisher stuck to his guns. Another big slog aiming for the same rope, and he could only edge to Bairstow. Fisher had four on debut.
Plunkett removed Wainwright, but Fisher wasn’t finished. Derbyshire had been destroyed, and after being hit for another six he bowled a vicious short ball that Cotton hit straight up in the air. Fittingly, Fisher himself settled under the ball, kept his eyes on it and took it comfortably.
Fisher had 5-22. On debut. At 17.
A brief rain delay and the early, careless loss of Andy Hodd, who charged Cotton and was comfortably bowled, were the only moments of unease for Yorkshire after that. Lees and Gale were sharp enough to put away the bad balls from an injury-weakened Derbyshire attack.
There were overthrows, there was a tough dropped catch or two. Defending 129 with a short boundary, every error was magnified. Amla clung on to Lees at third man, but Bairstow and Gale’s measured aggression was perfect for the match situation.
Former Yorkshire spinner David Wainwright became the prime target, and in the 13th over, he was smashed to all parts. Long on, midwicket, three sixes off the set and the required run rate plummeted from 6.25 to 4.28. Gale was caught behind, but the game was up. Any remaining Derbyshire hopes were cruelly dashed when Bairstow thumped Mark Footitt high into the air and Chesney Hughes took a fine catch, only to learn that it was a no ball for a waist-high full toss.
The game was won with 20 balls to spare, and the cries of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” were noisy and confident throughout the second innings. Derbyshire demolished: sterner tests await, but Fisher’s performance will undoubtedly be one of the great stories of this year’s T20 Blast.
Man of the Match – Matthew Fisher (Yorkshire Vikings): Fisher is not even taking his full A Levels yet and he can’t yet drink the traditional champagne he gets for being man of the match. He bowled fast and straight, and mixed up his lengths with the consummate brilliance of an IPL pro and not a boy making his Twenty20 debut. Derbyshire might have seen him as a target, but he’ll get the respect he deserves from now on. He is a serious bowler already: Yorkshire have another academy product to be immensely proud of, and England fans have a young quick to get excited about. And like any model student, his exploits with the ball enabled him to get an early night.