Yorkshire survived late wickets to wrap up a three-day win thanks to England opener Adam Lyth – with bat and ball. A ripping game of county cricket was finally concluded after a White Rose wobble when Glenn Maxwell and Will Rhodes hauled the hosts over the 213 winning line after play was extended.
Yorkshire have gone to the ends of the earth to find a spin replacement for Adil Rashid, who is away on ODI duty. They tried Karl Carver from the seconds, looking to replicate other youth prospects who have made it to the first team – think Matthew Fisher, Jack Leaning and Alex Lees – but Carver is not yet ready. This is only human, and as a spinner he has a while before he reaches his natural peak.
James Middlebrook was woken from his Minor Counties slumbers – he is captaining Bedfordshire – to play against Hampshire, and wasn’t called upon for this match. Yorkshire opted for Victoria-born all-rounder Glenn Maxwell on this occasion, and although he claimed three cheap first-innings wickets, he also leaked early runs in Middlesex’s second dig as they looked to set a competitive total.
The answer to Yorkshire’s spin issue on the morning of Day Three came in fact from Whitby. Andrew Gale opted to open the bowling with Adam Lyth’s part-time off-breaks, despite the overcast conditions, and with the final ball of the first over, Lyth turned one to have Dawid Malan caught by Tim Bresnan in the slips.
The occasional ball reared up to remind the batsman of his mortality at the crease. The Reaper came for John Simpson in the form of Bresnan, who managed to get him to chop one onto his stumps for a well-made 15.
Middlesex’s stand-in skipper James Franklin ended a seven-innings run of single-figure scores in style as he recorded his highest innings since April, passing 50 with a four off Will Rhodes. Ollie Rayner was caught by Gary Ballance at short cover off Steven Patterson, who had a strong lbw call turned down.
In the very next over, Rhodes had an lbw decision awarded in his favour – much to the surprise of the man dismissed, James Harris. Lunch was delayed by half an hour when Ballance flew to his left at midwicket to take an exceptional catch to dismiss Roland-Jones, but only seven minutes of the extension were needed as Murtagh hit a quick, useful 13 and was bowled.
Yorkshire’s tactical approach to the start of their 213-run chase was to block everything: by the time Alex Lees was trapped lbw to Franklin’s first ball, he and Lyth had put on 27 runs at under two per over. Gary Ballance looked far more assured than he did in the first innings. His trigger movement appeared less pronounced, he struck his shots cleanly, his footwork was tidy against the seamers and positive when Franklin turned to spin.
Ballance was eventually out stumped for 29, bizarrely shuffling down the wicket to Ollie Rayner. Yorkshire and England can be encouraged by the manner of his performance here; there are good times just around the corner.
Lyth’s judgement was excellent, and when he went for his shots they had a weight of authority and a natural timing greater even than his Championship-winning runs of 2014. Yorkshire lost two quick wickets when Rayner had Lyth caught behind for 67 and Bairstow was held in the slips for a fifth-ball duck after being dropped by Franklin on his second ball.
Jack Leaning departed for 25 after settling Yorkshire for a three-day win, but Maxwell’s recent form suggested that Middlesex were still in with a chance. It was Gale, however, who lost his bottle, charging down the wicket and chopping on to Murtagh after a canny bowling change from Franklin. Maxwell brought up the win with a straight six after a reserved innings (honest!) to leave the two sides level on points at second in the table, with Yorkshire just ahead on fewest losses – it feels, however, that Yorkshire have struck a key blow in their quest to retain the Championship title.