Azeem Rafiq impressed in all three aspects of the game to inspire the Yorkshire Vikings to a, much nervier than it perhaps should have been, win over Leicestershire Foxes, taking the Headingley men into the knockout stages of the Royal London One-Day Cup.
The 26-year-old spinner scored 52* of Yorkshire’s 258-7 before taking 2-46 and a catch for his spin bowling colleague Karl Carver, who took 3-24 himself.
Leicestershire still had a chance to qualify for the quarter-finals by taking the third qualification place had they won and other results gone their way.
Due to morning rain the toss didn’t take place until 2.30pm, providing Foxes captain Clint McKay the opportunity to put Yorkshire in in a 45 overs per side match starting at 3pm.
Gary Ballance’s 71, just short of his 72.50 average in this competition, was the backbone of an above par Yorkshire total started and finished by first Adam Lyth, then Rafiq half centuries.
Lyth and Alex Lees provided a solid but not spectacular start, but didn’t find things easy in overcast conditions, neither ever looking completely in.
Lees was the first Yorkshire wicket to fall, belting Gavin Griffiths straight to Mark Pettini at cover, out for 23, leaving his side at 72-1.
Slightly surprisingly Jack Leaning, who hadn’t played the last few matches whilst the England men were around, came in at three ahead of Peter Handscomb and Ballance. This Leaning promotion was unsuccessful for Yorkshire, the 23-year-old caught well above his head by Tom Wells off Griffiths for just two runs.
Just when I was looking down the scorecard thinking Yorkshire could do with Lyth going big today, he got out for 52, caught Ned Eckersley off the left-arm spin of Callum Parkinson.
Wells’ first ball appeared to stick in the pitch a little, prompting Handscomb to be through his shot a touch early, driving straight to Pettini for his second cover catch, for 13.
Yorkshire were therefore reeling at 98-4, left with Bresnan to join skipper Ballance with still 23.5 overs remaining.
Yorkshire looked to rebuild through the experienced pair, Bresnan given a life on 13 when dropped by McKay at mid-off off Wells. But with less than 10 overs to go he slapped another one straight down mid-off’s throat, caught for 34, ending a 73-run fifth-wicket partnership.
Ballance got to another one-day 50, off just 56 balls with 6.4 overs remaining. The first ball of the penultimate over saw him hit his own wicket attempting to clear the ropes off Wells. Rafiq provided late support from the other end, blasting a quick-fire half-century complete with successive sixes off Wells in the 43rd.
The Leicestershire run chase got off to a terrible start, Pettini caught at slip in the first over. But Cameron Delport and Eckersley did the opposite of going into their shell from 0-1, blasting boundaries to keep well above the D/L/S rate-they were 68-1 off after 10 overs.
Delport reached a sumptuous half-century off just 36 balls. They had a partnership of 107 before his remarkable innings ended on 68 from 47 balls, chipping Rafiq straight to long off. Mark Cosgrove the new man, was bowled for a second ball duck.
Yorkshire spinners Rafiq and Carver bowled tightly in tandem until the end of the 21st over when Bresnan returned. He dismissed Ackermann who only chipped in with 15, so when Eckersley was bowled by Carver for 46, the Yorkshire sniff of fear in the Foxes tail(s) was clear for all to see.
The Foxes only needed 100 off 20 overs but wickets fell at too regular intervals to ever give themselves a serious chance of winning this game once the top four had all gone.
However, there were a few late twists, the first of which came when captain McKay and Klein put on 42 for the ninth wicket off of only 19 balls, but when the former gifted his wicket to Leaning in the deep with 28 runs still required it was surely all over. Or not.
Klein and Griffiths brought it right down to the wire in front of an eerily nervous Headingley crowd. But No.11 Griffiths never looked as good with wood in hand as he did when taking 3-46 hours earlier.
Klein tried to farm the strike but in the end it was all too much for him to do single-handedly, he was caught in the deep going for a pressure-relieving maximum. Leicestershire were all out for 238, 20 runs short. The Foxes limp home and out of the competition with their tails between their legs.