Two Yorkshire partnerships – Gary Ballance and Peter Handscomb with the bat, and Azeem Rafiq and Adil Rashid with the ball – gave Yorkshire a convincing win against fierce rivals Lancashire at Headingley to continue their fine start in the Royal London One-Day Cup and condemn Lancashire to a second frustrating defeat within a week.
Even though Yorkshire lost the toss under overcast skies, fans of modern ODI cricket might have been surprised to see Yorkshire with just 23 runs seven overs into the innings. Conventional wisdom holds that in 50-over cricket, you need an explosive opening pair to exploit the powerplay. Adam Lyth and Jonny Bairstow, however, knew that it is important to read conditions carefully on this pitch. One ought not to explode on a cloudy morning at Headingley.
It fell to Ryan McLaren, who read the conditions perfectly, to dismiss both openers. Bairstow threw his hands at McLaren’s first delivery only to snick a thin but unmistakable inside edge to the keeper. A few overs later, seam off the pitch also saw off Adam Lyth, who nicked off playing a half-hearted defensive shot.
Joe Root starred in Yorkshire’s opening game of the Royal London One-Day Cup. Within a few balls of his first home innings since being named England captain, Root had his home fans purring with two delectable boundaries. First, he opened the face of his bat to shovel a wide delivery uppishly through the covers and then stepped gorgeously into a cover drive. It was another uppish cut that proved his downfall on just 21.
Yorkshire were indebted to the aesthetically unconventional pair of Ballance and Handscomb for a magnificent 143-run partnership which turned the game in their favour.
The lack of swing meant that Lancashire’s seamers were forced to drop shorter and try to extract some seam movement. There was no spin worth speaking of. Ballance and Handscomb cut and pulled effectively, finding gaps and negating Anderson’s straight, tight line with admirable composure and working the harried spinners with the effortless nature of two men completely comfortable with their own unconventional games.
When Handscomb took the aerial route, Lancashire’s disciplined fielding started to fray at the edges. As the second powerplay was ending, he plundered 18 runs from the first four balls of Luke Procter’s second over before holing out to James Anderson.
What followed was a disappointing collapse of 6-52. Tim Bresnan and David Willey threw their wickets away with vertical slogs in consecutive overs. Gary Ballance was dropped attempting a reverse sweep off Parry – who bowled superbly in the circumstances – and was promptly trapped lbw trying to repeat the shot.
It was a poor decision to go for the reverse sweep again, especially with the fielder in place, but replays suggested that the ball brushed Ballance’s glove on the way through. His 85 off 77 balls had achieved a great deal, though. It had continued his excellent start to the season, being his sixth score above 50 in eight innings including two centuries and a double ton, while also proving he is more than a first-class nurdler. Most importantly, it put the White Rose firmly in the ascendancy.
The white rose wilted to leave Lancashire a target of 297 to win. After Luke Procter chopped on to Tim Bresnan for 10, the Red Rose batsmen showed some flashes of colour and style, but from the outset Yorkshire dominated the chase.
The only real highlight for Lancashire fans was the battle between Liam Livingstone and Plunkett. Plunkett bowled with pace and aggression but Livingstone showed great anticipation and creativity to scoop the England quick for several boundaries and force him out of the attack.
Unfortunately for Lancashire, this only brought them the choking spin threat of Rashid and Rafiq. Rashid had caused Livingstone to come to the wicket when Alex Davies failed to read the googly and was trapped lbw, and when the Lancashire captain had 32, he too succumbed to Rashid, bowled off the inside edge.
Rafiq picked up Karl Brown, Clark, McLaren and finally Parry to give Yorkshire’s spinners combined figures of 6-81 off 19.2 overs. 14 of those runs came in Rafiq’s final over when the game was virtually beyond Lancashire, so the importance of their partnership in killing off Lancashire’s chances was even greater than their figures suggest.
Lancashire’s batsmen simply could not read the spinners and it was fitting that, in the end, it was Rashid who held onto the final catch to give Rafiq figures of 4-47. If you count under-19 cricket, all eleven of Yorkshire’s players have international experience.