It’s always difficult to gauge the popularity of county cricket, regardless of wherever the game is a four-day snooze-a-thon or a t20 ping session. A Thursday mid-afternoon crowd of 2,700 hardly helps to provide a better insight either.
Nevertheless, here I was at Headingley Stadium for Yorkshire Carnegie’s t20 clash with Worcestershire; a press box of nine balding, strong-accented journalists accompanying me in the YCCC’s new Kirkstal Lane press auditorium.
If you’ve lived in Headingley over the last three years, you will have noticed the YCCC have been slowly docking a monstrous green spaceship between west and east stands. The ship is now complete, and open to VIPs (those with money) and the press (those without money).
A vague memory in the back of my mind assures me that this stand was to be complete before the 2009 Ashes, and it was still a building site when the Aussies arrived, meaning the world’s largest billboard was erected to cover up the fat builders and buckets of cement.
Wickets are always more vigorously celebrated in the second innings.
Well it’s complete now, and is a magnificent facility for the club – even if it looks completely out of place, surrounded as it is by Leeds’ largest collection of red-bricked terrace housing.
Yorkshire went into the game without a win from their opening two t20 games, while Worcestershire were only a point ahead. A solid 40-run partnership from Andrew Gale and Adan Lyth surged Carnegie forward, but in the seventh over Gale chipped into bowler Vikram Solanki’s palms, and from there the innings never really reignited.
Lyth found Moeen Ali on the boundary to get his marching orders. From the high expanse of the press box, it always seems ridiculous how a batsman can find tiny individual 60 yards away on the ropes. And yet, Lyth’s accuracy was of perfection: a slow Shaaiq Choudhry delivery enough to baffle to opener.
The wickets continued to fall, Yorkshire finishing on a disappointing 152/7. The crowd – resolved to polite applause for every boundary – came to life in the Worcestershire innings however.
Really, a home side should always bowl second in t20 cricket. After an hour and a half of batting action, the crowd are by this time alcohol fuelled and bored enough to cheer even a dot ball. Wickets are always more vigorously celebrated in the second innings.
And indeed they were here too. Ryan Sidebottom was on stunning form, acrobatically catching Adil Rashid for one. Richard Pyrah then ruined Shakib Al Sahan’s middle wicket as the Carnegie field took control; the small west stand gathering showing their appreciation with rather overenthusiastic celebrations.
After 13 overs Worcestershire were five down for 70, and were in need of a boost from somewhere. It came thanks to Gareth Andrew, who pinged 16 off three successive David Wainwright deliveries. Suddenly the Royals were 106 for 5 with five overs remaining, and looking mildly threatening.
Yorkshire, who in the 13th over looked in full command, were thrown into the scrap. Sidebottom was called back out, having conceded just six off two overs. The choice was a success: Worcestershire scoring just four off the over. With 24 balls remaining, they needed a massive 45 runs, a figure that would have been far lower had it not been for Sidebottom.
Rashid crucially caught James Cameron with 17 balls to go, effectively ending any sort of rhythm to the Worcestershire tail end. Indeed, regardless of Andrew’s efforts – 60 in total with numerous sixes – it was Yorkshire’s day as they rather nervously limped over the finish line, the Royals finishing short on 150.
Of course Sidebottom was the man given the responsibility of seeing off the last over, Worcestershire needing 4 off the last ball, but a low delivery was enough to secure YCCC victory, and in doing so boost Carnegie off the bottom of the t20 Northern league table.
Yorkshire fixtures are scheduled throughout the summer. Who knows if Leeds Student will cover them…
Final Score: YCCC 152/7 bt Royals by 2 runs