Durham 217 for 3 (Lees 90, Robinson 64*) beat Yorkshire 189 for 7 (Tattersall 39, Raine 3-27) by 28 runs
A badly-publicised switch to a Sunday morning start at 11.30am under slate-grey Headingley skies does not immediately strike you as the future of T20 cricket and it failed to bring any change of fortune for Yorkshire as they succumbed to a comprehensive 28-run defeat against Durham. Still, as various websites also revealed that the game was starting at 3.30pm and 6pm, at least they could console themselves that they would have two more goes to put it right. More on those results later.
Disgruntlement is rife as Yorkshire’s winless runs since August 21 in all competitions drags on. When the pressure is on, they look psychologically damaged, their sense of self weakened by the schisms in the county over not just the racism allegations, but the way they were handled. Senior pros wondering what they have let themselves in for; kids wondering when the misery will all end.
About 6000 turned up, the rest presumably in mourning for the possibility of Leeds United’s potential relegation from the Premier League a few miles down the road later in the day. Yorkshire look a poorer side in T20 than in the Championship and, in the Championship, they are bottom of Division Two. The Roses T20 is at Headingley on Thursday and Lancashire will never have been stronger favourites.
Down in Happy Valley, the soap opera runs on apace. Alternative candidates to the return of Colin Graves as chair, a figure associated with the fallen old regime but the man who could tip Yorkshire into bankruptcy, now include not just a Saudi prince and Indian investors, but apparently no lesser figure than Mike Ashley, the former Newcastle United owner and majority shareholder of Fraser’s Group, who is worth around £2.5 billion so he could spare a £20m loan or so to keep the club functioning and have a little dabble in cricket.
Ashley’s involvement does not immediately smack of an obsessively progressive future, but as the average progressive appears to have about £80 in the bank, a mortgage, and no spare time, it might be politic not to be too picky about these things. And at least the replica shirts would be discounted.
When you are up against it, the last thing you need is a former player returning to give you a battering, but Yorkshire endured that, too, as Alex Lees’ forthright 90 from 53 balls spearheaded Durham’s charge to 217 for 3, their highest score against Yorkshire. Lees and Ollie Robinson, who completed affairs with an unbeaten 64 from 30, both registered career-bests in this format. Durham’s first T20 win at Headingley since 2012 was a breeze. The north-east renaissance is gaining pace.
Yorkshire had made an ideal start when Matthew Fisher removed Graham Clark for nought with the first legitimate ball of the innings, finding early outswing to have him caught at the wicket. Clark had made an unbeaten hundred in Durham’s 10-wicket trouncing of Northants two days earlier – Durham’s first hundred in this competition for six years – whereas Fisher had suffered a terrible night at Worcester, looking many a mile away from the bowler who won an England Test debut in the Caribbean little more than a year ago. But patterns in T20 can change in an instant and with the ball swinging, for Fisher bowling was a happier undertaking.
But Lees, with that mournful power of his, soon reestablished Durham’s superiority. David Wiese curbed Lees’ leg-side blows, but was just as readily picked through the off side. Yorkshire’s bowling became ragged and somewhat downcast. Stands of 85 with Michael Jones and 111 with Robinson were built without much threat.
Litte moments can encapsulate a side’s morale. There have been few finer fielders in county cricket than Adam Lyth, but he dropped a challenging catch when Lees was 73, pedalling back at mid-off. Wiese, the unfortunate bowler, followed up with a full toss which Lees duly deposited into the West Stand to secure his best T20 score.
The potential Yorkshire saw when they signed Ben Mike from Leicestershire has yet to come to the fore, although he did dismiss Lees when Jafar Chohan took a fine diving catch at deep backward square. If there was optimism to be had perhaps it came in the shape of this slender legspinner, a graduate from the South Asian Cricket Academy, who bowled three relatively inexpensive overs.
Robinson’s 64 from 30 was a typically inventive affair from one of the summer’s most eye-catching young cricketers and it reduced Jordan Thompson, in particular, to headshakes as his mix-ups failed to stem the flow. Thompson is Yorkshire’s bellwether bowler, his mood often revealing their general state of mind, and it was not good.
Yorkshire lack much, but they lack a death bowler most of all and Robinson’s finale – a six over long-on and four through extra cover – left Thompson with the most expensive figures of the day.
Yorkshire’s response with the bat never convinced. Lyth’s brief spree had a sense of “stuff it” about it, his 24 from 8 ending when a shot went all Virgin Galactic and Robinson held the catch after a successful re-entry. (Branson’s space rocket, incidentally, was called VSS Unity which is a concept that would never catch on in Yorkshire).
Shan Masood, the captain charged with turning things round, chipped weakly to short midwicket and when Dawid Malan’s loft of Nathan Sowter fell short of the extra cover boundary, Yorkshire’s three batters of undeniable quality had all perished for 65 by the seventh over. Matthew Revis’ lumbering run-out after Jonny Tattersall called him for an off-side single added to the sense of chaos and, although Tattersall and Jordan Thompson did a spot of window-dressing, Ben Raine dismissed both.
When will this end? Romain Rolland, the French dramatist and novelist of a century or more ago, famously called for “pessimism of the intelligence, which penetrates every illusion, and optimism of the will.” That powerful combination of realism and idealism is at the heart of Yorkshire’s challenge. Authenticity is hard to find.
It is difficult to envisage the arrival of a united Yorkshire after Lord Kamlesh Patel’s colossal mismanagement of a delicate and unacceptable state of affairs and when, instead of a general desire for a better, more harmonious future, there is so much conflict and resentment. Change will only come from within and ultimately it is down to those in charge to drive it, inspire it and finance it.
Which brings us to Adil Rashid, who sharp-eyed readers will have noticed is yet to make an appearance in the Blast, and whose absence has not been officially explained by either England, to whom he is centrally contracted, or Yorkshire.
Yorkshire have privately intimated that England want Rashid to undergo a considerable period of rehab which will presumably extend to the start of the white-ball internationals in September, which might be understandable – because legspin is an arduous undertaking and his shoulder could well be creaking like a horror film door – were it not for the fact that nobody was talking about rehab when he went to the IPL, played only the first two matches and for the next six weeks with Sunrisers Hyderabad was most at risk of bench rot.
If Rashid is not playing quite why he is not being utilised in promotional work around minority-ethnic areas, with the blessing of ECB, is hard to understand. Does he not recognise that he could play a major role? But that’s the problem with revolutions. Administrators and politicians protect their backs, few players show an interest in the bigger picture, self-interest and distortions are everywhere, and the whole shebang trundles on.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps