Lancashire 185 for 4(Brown 51, Lilley 47) beat Yorkshire 181 for 9 by six wickets
Yorkshire’s coach Andrew Gale chose the build-up to the Roses T20 at Headingley to say that “all the criticism does is drive me to get out of bed every day.” It could only be assumed therefore that on returning home his alarm would be set for Friday 5am and he would be leaping up for a defiant gym session before dawn after a second Roses T20 defeat of the season.
For Yorkshire, a six-wicket defeat with 14 balls remaining felt like an opportunity wasted. When David Willey fell, 80 from 43 to his name, Yorkshire were 130 for 2 from 12 overs, with visions of 220. What followed turned a raucous capacity crowd into misery. Both White and Red Rose can still secure a top-four finish and a quarter-final berth, but neither encourages confidence.
That Yorkshire died to 181 for 9 was symptomatic of a batting order that carries most of its threat in the top four. Lancashire’s batting order, without their injured Liam Livingstone, looked equally thin, but they got a flyer with a 57 opening stand in 5.2 overs, Arron Lilley swung a career-best 47 from 20 balls at No. 3 before a brilliant diving catch at deep midwicket by Willey and Karl Brown went on to a considered half-century before he was run out by Willey, by then a one-man resistance unit.
To a man, Lancashire approached the chase with certainty, ridding themselves of memories of their botched job when comfortably placed against Durham two days earlier.
It was a good job for Yorkshire that Willey could destroy legspin – both right-arm and left-arm varieties – because nobody else in their line-up could. Willey took 41 off 14 balls from Zahir Khan and Matt Parkinson – that is going some, almost three runs a ball – and while he was at the crease the Headingley crowd was buoyant. The Rest of Yorkshire managed 33 from 35 balls and lost Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Kane Williamson, Johnny Tattersall and Gary Ballance in the process.
Kohler-Cadmore, one of the most effective destroyers of short bowling in the tournament, had also played well, but Parkinson had him caught in the deep, Zahir turned one back into Williamson to hit his leg stump, second ball, Ballance, who rarely suggests he can wreak havoc, lofted Parkinson to long-on. James Faulkner then hunted down three wickets with back-of-the-hand deliveries in one of the easier final overs of his career.
Willey had taken 16 from Zahir’s first over, an ambitious foray down the pitch enabling him to hit the Afghan spinner’s third ball into the crowd. He wasn’t just reading him, he was reading him voraciously, entire chapters speed read in seconds. “I couldn’t get it off the square at first, but I got going eventually,” Willey said.
But every time that Willey and Kohler-Cadmore lofted the ball into the unfinished Rugby Stand in a second-wicket partnership of 129 in 11 overs was a reminder of the pressure Yorkshire are under. The new stand, however necessary to secure their international future (the old one was fallen down anyway), has just added to their financial pressures. Contractual negotiations have been strained as Yorkshire seek to rebalance their squad towards youth – and towards those who are actually available.
Tim Bresnan, Gale’s brother-in-law and neighbour, has decided to stay, but it has been a tense, close call. Liam Plunkett has gone to Surrey, Jack Brooks may follow, with Somerset the favourites. At least negotiations are progressing calmly with Adil Rashid, whose selection for the Edgbaston Test when he was on a white-ball only contract, had caused all Yorkshire’s tension to spill over into frustration.
At the height of Lilley’s assault, as he deposited Azeem Rafiq into the crowd, a spectator was struck in the mouth. TV showed him enquiring of his neighbour if any serious damage had ensued. The response was stereotypically Yorkshire, plus a bit. “You’ll live,” his expression seemed to say.
“You’ll live,” is about all that anybody could say to Gale. He is following in the footsteps of Jason Gillespie, under whom he captained Yorkshire to back-to-back Championships in 2014 and 2015. Gale’s transition from captain to coach has not been easy, partly because he struggled to find a strong-willed captain to replace himself. But Yorkshire fans seem to recall Gillespie’s part with most fondness.
“Some people seem to have it against me, I don’t know why,” he said. “It was always tough to follow Dizzy’s footsteps. The criticism can be hard because, man and boy at this club, I’ve put everything into it.”
An appearance in Finals Day would help. But Lancashire had their first win in five matches since they beat Yorkshire in the first Roses meeting at Old Trafford and now lie third. Perhaps crucially, they have won without Livingstone, but lacking his emphatic presence at the top of the order, it is a damn sight more difficult.
For both sides in this curiously unbalanced fixture list there is no let-up. Yorkshire travel to Trent Bridge to face Nottinghamshire on Friday, while Lancashire host Birmingham Bears at Old Trafford. You wouldn’t bet on either.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.