Yorkshire are firmly at the bottom of the North Group – and remain there – but an astonishing display of all-round brilliance saw them take five wickets in ten balls and secure an unlikely victory at home tonight against second-placed Birmingham Bears.
The match began as it intended to go on, it seemed, with a spark of excitement followed by an anti-climactic fizzle out.
Adam Lyth opened the batting with David Willey and struck a six and a four from the first over, looking like he was in imperious form. That was until he caught an Oliver Hannon-Dalby delivery slightly wrong and sent it more up than out, where it dropped into the hands of the waiting Ateeq Javid on the circle sending him back for 12 from 8.
Willey was to follow three overs later for 10 to the same bowler, but this time caught by William Porterfield, and skipper Alex Lees would leave the side wobbling on 53-3 within the first eight over.
When Kane Williamson strides to the crease his reputation may precede him, but sadly that does involve being a little heavy on the blocking. Not tonight though. He would stay at the crease until the final over when a messy run-out with Liam Plunkett would see him stranded on 48 and heading back to the dugout.
Sparks – but not actual fire – from Tim Bresnan and Jack Leaning towards the end, and a good contribution from recent England re-callee Gary Balance, saw Yorkshire’s innings make it up to 156-6.
It proved to be something of a competitive total and the Birmingham Bears were running along par with Yorkshire the whole way; that was until Laurie Evans met Porterfield in the middle.
The fifth ball Evans faced was dispatched for six and his whole innings continued in a similar vein, striking the ball well for boundaries and then sitting quietly waiting for his next opportunity.
His and Porterfield’s partnership did for Birmingham’s innings what Williamson and Ballance’s had done for Yorkshire’s: it filled the middle overs and put runs on the board.
It was the newly returned Azeem Rafiq who got Evans caught by Williamson for 37.
As a true testament to just how similar the two innings were, the top scorer on both sides finished with 48 runs to their name.
For reasons unknown to anyone but those in the western terrace this evening, the “Iceland OOH” rang out around Headingley – perhaps they knew what was to come?
In the penultimate over Willey sent a stock delivery down to Javid, who batted it back to him. He then snatched the ball from the ground, spun round and smashed it into the stumps to see Rikki Clarke removed suddenly for nine.
He wasn’t done there, either. Two balls later he got Patel to sky one to Jack Leaning in the deep, and the Birmingham Bears needed 12 from nine with five wickets remaining. By the end of Willey’s over they needed 11 from six with three wickets remaining.
In an unlikely turn of events, the Vikings removed the Bears’ final five wickets for nine runs in the space of the same number of balls – one of which was conceded as a wide.
There were run-outs and catches abound, but the real genius came off the final ball when Lyth deflected a well-struck ball over long-on, away from the boundary and saved two. His teammates then rallied to get the ball back to the bowler who ran Javid out for his 8 run contributions and secured the Bears’ fate: they were 154 all out compared to Yorkshire’s 156-6.
Man of the match
It has to go to Adam Lyth again. He started the game with some fire-power, bowled one over for just four runs in the middle overs to keep the run-rate down but the real heroics came right at the end.
Amidst all of the drama of the final two overs, four were needed off the final ball of the innings for the Bears to tie with the Vikings and Javid struck the ball over long-on with pace and height, in true Lyth-style he timed his leap perfectly and deflected the ball from mid-air back from the boundary to save two – the two runs that Yorkshire won by.