Headingley, bathed in September sunshine, played host to this hotly anticipated RLODC semi-final between the Yorkshire Vikings and Gloucestershire. The latter’s captain won the toss and elected to bowl, a decision many queried on a pitch that looked hard and dry.
For the first 17 overs the doubters appeared to be the favoured side as well as the openers, Adam Lyth and Alex Lees, put on a 100 run partnership. Admittedly this was not an even partnership; Lyth contributed 68 of these runs with Lees adding just 21. In form of a celebration, Lees lost his wicket. A brilliant caught and bowled chance for Benny Howell was not overlooked and the Gladiators had their breakthrough.
Unfortunately for Yorkshire this seemed to be the turning point in the innings. At the rate Lyth and Lees were scoring, the Vikings should have been looking to post a good 300 total but an inability to locate impetus meant their close of innings total was a distinctly mediocre 263/9.
Starring for Gloucestershire, Benny Howell secured three wickets at the cost of 37 runs from his ten over allocation – two of which fell caught and bowled. He was the pick of the bowlers but well supported by the five other bowlers all of whom walked away with one scalp to their names.
The Yorkshire innings was not without controversy however. Jonny Bairstow found himself with a lifeline when he chipped one straight back to bowler Liam Norwell but was immediately dropped. Questions had to be asked but he was permitted to stay at the crease – until Norwell’s next over when he was trapped lbw for 34.
It was all down to Yorkshire’s youth-heavy bowling attack or to secure their place in the final – the big question was whether Gloucestershire, billed as the ‘younger’ team (on average, despite in fact having an average age 3.4 years older than Yorkshire’s team), will triumph and prove that bowling first was the right decision.
While Chris Dent and Michael Klinger were the men chosen to open the batting for the Gloucestershire, Steve Patterson and Tim Bresnan opened the bowling for the Vikings. The first few overs were an exhibition of the traditional bat vs ball battle – Gloucestershire were solidly behind Yorkshire at the end of each over.
In an over-by-over comparison, it should be noted that they were behind all the way until the 39th over when all of a sudden they jumped to being two runs in the lead (from being seven runs behind) with three extra wickets in hand.
Klinger looked in great touch, as was predicted by all present, and unlike his opposition counterpart got himself comfortably over the 100 mark. The Australian had left Gloucestershire for the season and headed back to his home country but made a return specifically for this match – how grateful the team are now!
His 100 came from 117 balls with nine fours and a six struck to get there. This score clocked up his sixth consecutive score of 50+ and he cruised his team on to the Lord’s-bound bus with 19 balls to spare.
Alex Lees’ captaincy leaves something to be desired for the host side, especially when compared with that of Gloucestershire’s captaincy. Whilst a very good batsman holding all the right cards, his youth held him back from making decisions that could have put their opposition under serious pressure.
If Yorkshire want to analyse where they went wrong it should start with allowing the match to drift in the middle overs and not being tight enough in the field. They looked good for the first 15 overs, keeping Gloucestershire pinned back but by the middle period there was little the host team could do to stem the flow of runs. All too often could a Yorkshireman be seen mis-fielding, letting the ball slip away for even just one run more than it should have been – summed up when Gloucestershire needed just 7 runs to win and Marshall skied one to Lees, who let it slip through his fingers.
Klinger and Hamish Marshall settled themselves easily and once they had their 100 and 50 milestones respectively, opened the gates and there were sixes around the ground including one to end the match over long-on.
Victory for the southerners was well earned as Klinger and Marshall secured themselves a record partnership for any wicket of 177 for Gloucestershire vs Yorkshire, individual scores of 137* and 78*.
The second semi-final will be played on Monday between Surrey and Nottinghamshire, who will meet Gloucestershire at Lord’s on 19th September.