A remarkable 91 off just 35 balls from Yorkshire-born Ross Whiteley rescued Worcestershire from a poor start at Headingley to take them to the total of 191-6 that proved unassailable, as regular wickets from Brett D’Oliveira clipped the hosts’ wings to almost certainly end their T20 Blast hopes for 2015.
Richard Oliver’s first ball was miscued to cow corner, where a tough chance eluded the fielder. His innings was unorthodox, creative but ultimately short – it was over when he slapped a Liam Plunkett bumper to Bresnan at short cover.
He was replaced by Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who was given two chances on six when he was dropped by Bairstow, and Liam Plunkett failed to hold onto a chance that raced onto him. The Worcestershire number three looked to launch the next ball over Matthew Fisher’s head, but Alex Lees made no mistake with a skier that came over his shoulder.
Colin Munro’s low, crab-like stance at the crease might cause some to think of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, but his mentality is the polar opposite to that of the West Indies great. He got away with two attempted reverse-sweeps, the second of which flew over Jonny Bairstow’s head.
He had no such luck when attempting a relatively orthodox drive, and Bairstow pouched the easy catch. Bairstow had an embarrassing moment shortly afterwards, when he nudged the bails off with his backside trying to effect a run-out.
The rebuilding operation took another blow when D’Oliveira was caught on the boundary by T20 debutant Karl Carver. The game, however, was about to turn.
Whiteley’s hitting lower down the order has been important for Worcestershire this season, and he hit two delightful sixes onto the leg side. When Glenn Maxwell was brought on to bowl, he thumped the Australian all-rounder into the sightscreen over his head for yet another six.
Daryl Mitchell played the anchoring role for the visitors, but was deceived by a leg-cutter from Liam Plunkett that sent him to the dugout with 49 off 45 to his name.
Yorkshire have not been afraid this season to throw their youngsters into high-pressure situations, and Ryan Gibson felt the full force of Ross Whiteley’s power in his first over of T20 cricket, when the left-hander brought up his 50 with back-to-back sixes. His next delivery deceived the batsman with a change of pace.
Matthew Fisher, who had bamboozled the top order with some excellent swing bowling, had two loose deliveries punished by Ben Cox. Cox perished top-edging Liam Plunkett to Jonny Bairstow via the stratosphere, and Whiteley responded to the loss of his partner by whacking Plunkett for six over the heads of long off and long on respectively.
Liam Plunkett’s mixed bag of an innings was summed up by his figures: 4-49. Whiteley tore his last over to shreds, showing utter disregard towards field placings and bowling plans. Matthew Fisher’s final over was expensive as Whiteley moved to 91 off 35 balls with two huge sixes over long on.
Alex Lees opened Yorkshire chase of 192 with a pair of straight sixes off Jack Shantry in the first over before a poor attempt at a paddle-sweep dropped short of the bowler on the dive. It was Saeed Ajmal though who stalled the home side with an over of remodelled off spin that was rewarded by an Alex Lees top edge, and Jack Shantry clung on in the deep.
The in-form Jonny Bairstow came to the crease after Rhodes was run out for ten, but his stay was not a long one. He tried to take the initiative against the part-time medium pace of Daryl Mitchell, but was caught on the boundary by Ed Barnard. All hopes rested then on Glenn Maxwell and Andrew Gale.
Less than an over later, both were whipping off their pads in the dugout. Maxwell slogged his first ball (off leg-spinner Brett D’Oliveira) to Kohler-Cadmore, and Gale was out reverse-sweeping, caught by Saeed Ajmal.
Ajmal may be the great overseas spinner, but it was D’Oliveira’s night as Tim Bresnan vented his frustration at the ball, and could only find Whiteley running in from midwicket. Yorkshire had imploded, losing four wickets for nine runs in 18 balls.
Jack Leaning was the White Rose’s final fading petal in the run-chase, but he too was torn from his stem by Jack Shantry, who stopped a Ryan Gibson drive with his foot and ran Leaning out at the non-striker’s end.
Kyle Carver nicked off and Gibson hit Jack Shantry quite fittingly down Ross Whiteley’s throat in the deep to leave the hosts 74 short of their target. Worcestershire have qualified from the North Division, and a home quarter-final looks well within reach for the Pears; the Vikings might as well send a burning boat full of their T20 hopes out to sea.