Lancashire redeemed their disastrous collapse against the Durham Jets in their previous match by finishing off a steep chase of 182 in relatively clinical fashion. It is Yorkshire who will view this match as a missed opportunity, after they looked set to post a huge total when David Willey was at the crease and made 80 off 42 balls and the rest of the side failed to capitalise on his brilliant start.
Often, when Willey bats, there are no words. When he swings through the line of the ball, the sound is like a full stop. Definitive. Final. He writes a sentence and silences it with one mighty swipe. It is only when the catch is, or isn’t, taken in the crowd that words even become possible or meaningful.
When David Willey was a young lad, he didn’t dream of starring in Roses matches as Adam Lyth did. He certainly never dreamt of playing Twenty20, a format that wasn’t invented until he was a teenager. Nevertheless, he is a cricketer who seems perfectly formed for big occasions like tonight.
Lyth became an early casualty of the Yorkshire Vikings innings after Steven Patterson won the toss and batted first, chipping a leading edge to Steven Croft for an easy caught and bowled. Willey walked in, and after a few sighters to get the pace of the pitch, he exploded.
No matter who was bowling – and Lancashire used a wide array of spinners, seamers, left-armers, right-armers – Willey met every delivery with undaunted muscle. As the bowlers turned to plans B, C, and eventually plans X, Y, and Z, Willey picked them off with ease. Teenage wrist-spinner Zahir Khan, who was impressive against the Durham Jets earlier in the week, was treated with utter disdain and dispatched into the Western Terrace.
He was ably supported by Tom Kohler-Cadmore, who rode his luck with two drops.
It was Willey’s wicket, however, that brought some respite for the beleaguered visitors. Going for another big shot, Willey provided Lancashire’s newest signing, Scotland international Mark Watt, with an easy catch. His fellow new kid on the block, Khan, redeemed his earlier blips against Willey by bamboozling the great Kane Williamson, who was bowled for just a single. Kohler-Cadmore offered a third chance, and departed for 46. From 130-1 to 141-4.
It is proof of Willey’s importance to this side that both Gary Ballance and Jonathan Tattersall departed to shots that lacked power to take them over the ropes, and nobody came close to his 80 off 42, either for runs scored or strike rate.
Where Yorkshire (Willey excepted) had been cautious, Lancashire were fearless. After seeing off a strong opening over from Willey (who else?), Alex Davies and Karl Brown took the great all-rounder’s example and fired the seamers to the boundary. It felt at times like they had Willeys at both ends.
Sixes rained onto the concerned upturned faces of the Western Terrace faithful and, even when Patterson bowled Davies trying for a paddle sweep, Arron Lilley continued the onslaught. Seam was dispatched. Azeem Rafiq, Yorkshire’s only real spinner on the night, saw his first over go for 18.
It was Willey who brought Yorkshire back from the brink once more. Another big shot from Lilley seemed destined to bounce over the ropes to secure his half-century, but Willey took a spectacular catch, running, diving, and sliding to his left, coming up with the ball firmly in his grasp.
If hope glimmered in the minds of the Yorkshire supporters, it killed them in the end. Brown and Vilas afforded no respect to the White Rose’s elder statesman Tim Bresnan (0-31 off two) or the impressive youngster Jordan Thompson (1-32 off 3), and when Brown thumped Thompson for a brilliant straight six in the thirteenth over, Lancashire needed less than a run a ball.
After a brief wobble in which they lost two wickets, Croft half-hooked, half-pulled Jack Brooks through the leg side for four to secure the win with six wickets and 14 balls to spare. Not only do Lancashire cross the Pennines with bragging rights and a win – they have also boosted their net run rate and their confidence for the rest of the tournament.