Seaside ton secures Jonny an Ashes call up as Ballance pays the price for technical flaws.
North Marine Road Scarborough: Yorkshire beat Worcestershire by 7 wickets.
Yorkshire survived a second innings wobble to chalk up a fifth successive County Championship victory and in so doing put themselves in the driving seat to retain their LVV First Division crown.
When skipper Andrew Gale was run out, the Tykes had stumbled to 44/3 chasing an awkward target of 157. Pakistani Test off spinner Saeed Ajmal on a turning final day wicket could have sent the jitters through the Tykes dressing room. Enter Jonny Bairstow.
The Yorkshire number five is in the middle of the mother of all purple patches. 5 championship hundreds including 139 in the first innings on Sunday have been complemented by a stellar 83 off just 60 balls to see England home in the deciding ODI against New Zealand at Chester Le Street last month. Any nerves in the home dressing room today were quelled as Bairstow blasted Yorkshire home in some style with a masterful 74 from only 51 deliveries which included 9 fours and 3 towering sixes.
I arrived at the ground on Sunday under leaden skies. It looked like a bowling day but when Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale won the toss he decided to bat. This caused some chuntering amongst the faithful. I have a set routine at Scarborough. The morning is always spent under the North End scoreboard, post lunch exactly opposite, and the evening session at point on the Popular Side. You always see the same faces but this game was bolstered by a younger crowd no doubt due to the Tykes domination in the four day format of game over the last year.
When youngster Jack Leaning was trapped LBW by Worcester’s medium pacer Leach Yorkshire were 57/3 and the murmurings continued. Jonny Bairstow joined his skipper in the middle and 254 runs later it was the Worcestershire fans who were sporting the long faces. Yorkshire went on to post 430 and then skittle the visitors out for 280, just one agonising run shy of saving the follow on. Fielding six full time bowlers Gale had no worries regarding fatigue and the visitors were invited to bat again. Having persuaded the family that an afternoon in Scarborough was just the tonic for the first week of a marathon seven week school holiday, I got to North Marine Road mid way through the afternoon session. Ross Whiteley had smashed us to all parts in a 35 ball 91 in the T20 last week and carried his form into this game. In league with Brett D’ Oliveria (it’s depressing when you remember his grandfather as a player) the pair added exactly 100 before D’Oliveria gloved a snorter from a distinctly rapid Liam Plunkett to Jack Brookes in the slips. The former Durham paceman then removed ‘keeper Ben Cox in similar fashion before Joe Leach stayed with Whiteley to the close and his century was completed this morning leaving Yorkshire 157 to win.
Some observations. Firstly I noticed that the opposition skipper Daryl Mitchell was prone to setting bog standard fields and at no point during the Bairstow/ Gale partnership did you get the feeling he had a plan to get someone out by exploiting a technical weakness. To be fair only youngster Charlie Morris displayed any real pace, and Saeed Ajmal is blunted as an attacking force since the ICC ordered him to remodel his action amidst suspicions that he chucked his doosra. But as Gary Ballance has found out to his cost, at Test level if a weakness is spotted you are in for a relentless time. Bairstow has struggled against the short stuff in his fledgling Test career and four fifties in 14 Tests is scant return. Let’s hope he can replicate his domestic form. On the flip side Andrew Gale was far more proactive. He set a different field for each batsman, using innovative catching positions when Steve Patterson was bowling his cutters and when Plunkett came on he was very hostile prompting everyone to be backward of square on the offside save for a wide mid off.
Secondly the bowling attack Yorkshire possess means that the pressure is not as tight on the batting line up, and for the opposition there is no let up. Most County attack change bowlers (and many opening ones, especially in Division Two) allow the batters to relax a bit. This is far from the case in Test cricket making the step up a big one.
Finally Liam Plunkett is seriously quick. He was used in a short burst yesterday and from my vantage point you could see just how far back the slip cordon and keeper were, and the thwack of the ball into Bairstow’s gloves was loud. I saw the great 1984 West Indies pace attack at close quarters from the Western Terrace and Plunkett is up there. Not with Michael Holding however. The ‘keeper Jeff Dujon was miles back on that July day and with the bowler starting his run virtually on Kirkstall Road the batter must have been scared witless. Only Allan Lamb managed to deal with the battery of quicks and we saw him register an amazing century.
On the England front now is not the time to panic. They are a young team and inconsistency is all part of it. I was especially angry with the headline, “Dunces With Wolves” in one of the Red Tops. We have played four Tests at home this summer and two of them have been almost perfection. The changes I would make would be to drop Gary Ballance, move Bell to three (he has over 100 tests and needs to lead from the front) and if KP isn’t recalled bring Bairstow in to bat at five with Joe Root at four. I’m still unsure about Moeen but he is the man in possession and Rashid bowled some dross yesterday with at least one buffet ball (help yourself) per over. In addition there maybe an argument to replace Wood with Finn although the Durham man is the best long term bet. Plunkett must be on the radar again but I want him at Yorkshire for now.