Leeds, September 19 – 22, 2017
, Specsavers County Championship Division One
Yorkshire won by 2 wickets
Yorkshire 296 (Lyth 62, Bresnan 47, Rankin 3-48) and 178 for 8 (Patterson 44*) beat Warwickshire 219 (Patel 100, Fisher 5-54 ) and 251 (Trott 59, Patterson 4-46) by two wickets
Yorkshire supporters had wanted to voice their farewells to Ryan Sidebottom in the final Championship match at Headingley. Instead, Sidebottom was injured and in his place they got a Warwickshire bowler of the same name and Steven Patterson, a county journeyman. Still, it appears to have turned out rather well: Patterson might just have saved them from relegation and the Sidebottom they craved appeared after the match to take the applause.
Four wickets for Patterson on the third day, his season’s best, had helped set up a Yorkshire chase of 175. And when they seemed to be making a Horlicks of it at 96 for 7, Patterson stalked out at No 9 to put things right, his unbeaten 44 dominating an eighth-wicket stand of 78 with Matt Fisher which took them to within one run of victory. The coup de grace belonged to Patterson, standing on his toes to cut Chris Wright to the cover boundary.
Fisher and Patterson were an unlikely rescue act. Fisher, a fine talent who has been conservatively treated after putting repeated hamstring problems behind him, was playing his first Championship game of the season and probably arrived at the dressing room in a package marked Fragile: This Way Up. Patterson has played more often, but not half as much as he thinks he should have. Dubbed the “first name on the teamsheet” in Andrew Gale’s time as captain, he has found that teamsheet supplanted now that Gale is coach. This innings may have involved an element of two fingers to the selectors.
Victory over the bottom club has not yet made Yorkshire safe but it will at least enable them to sleep at nights, ahead of next week’s final-round showdown at Chelmsford, where they must face the newly-crowned champions, Essex, with bonus points still needed.
Jeetan Patel’s offspin has sustained Warwickshire for many seasons but his 6 for 50 in 28 overs on a Headingley surface offering modest assistance was his first five-wicket haul of a less productive season. It spearheaded a strikingly dedicated display by a Warwickshire side which has already been relegated and can only hearten their sports director, Ashley Giles, as he continues a substantial job to restructure a squad that had grown old together. Not that Jonathan Trott, a captain who prefers winning, looked too enchanted about it. “Good enough to get in a position to win, not good enough to do it,” he said.
Patel bowled unchanged in the second innings from the ninth over, clocking up 63 overs in the match, a redoubtable effort against a Yorkshire side that lacked a specialist spinner and had put its faith in five specialist right-arm seamers. From 56 for 3, still needing 119 for victory, Yorkshire soon sunk to 86 for 6 as he took the first three wickets of the morning.
For Yorkshire’s new partnership at the helm, captain Gary Ballance and coach Andrew Gale, the relief will be palpable. It was largely Ballance’s runs that sustained Yorkshire in early season. Highly-regarded batsmen have underperformed and, although the emergence of seamer Ben Coad was another bonus, it has counter-intuitively accentuated the difficulties in a potentially large squad of pace bowlers with a confused pecking order. England calls and the banishing of the Championship to both extremities of the season do not help that.
It is unclear where this leaves a vocal minority of Yorkshire regulars who, strange as it may seem, have asserted when things have gone badly that they would like Yorkshire to be relegated. They do this with arms defiantly folded, as if daring failure to do its worst is somehow a defence against it. They are of a type who might offer other unbending opinions on anything you care to mention, unsought or not, such as ‘people should never work in pubs’, ‘joggers in lycra should not be allowed in shops’ and ‘nobody needs a dishwasher’.
A journey through their little resentments also seems to centre upon the view that Yorkshire’s relegation would somehow punish England for regularly taking five players from their side, so making the whole thing a mockery, or – an alternative grouch that has been heard intermittently all season – that the former captain, Gale, should never have been elevated to coach upon his retirement as a player, and that relegation would at least give them evidence for their belief.
These are the sort of uncomfortable mornings – or moanings – that a captain can sort by asserting his influence on affairs in a single, decisive session. Ballance, in his first season in charge, was 16 not out overnight and had the chance to do just that. But five overs into the day, he pushed forward defensively at the offspin of Patel and was lbw.
If some Yorkshire supporters were preparing to distance themselves from potential failure, the sunshine and blue skies that greeted the their batsmen augured well. By the time the clouds advanced, an hour into the day, their progress had been wary. Jack Leaning struck Patel over mid-on to throaty cries of approval, but he departed the following ball, well caught at leg gully by Ian Bell, stooping to his left.
It was not the time for Tim Bresnan to register his sixth Championship duck of the season – a record that has included two pairs – but he did just that. Bresnan’s first-innings contribution had been instrumental in giving Yorkshire a 77-run lead, but his attempt to break Patel’s stranglehold by hitting him over mid-on came to grief as he led out to Alex Thomson at deep midwicket.
That Warwickshire would be rewarded for a strikingly dedicated display for a side so far adrift at the foot of the table looked likely when Andrew Hodd pushed hard at a delivery from Sidebottom and was grasped by Patel at first slip. For a Warwickshire player named Ryan Sidebottom to get into the act seemed to be rubbing it in. They had been denied a valedictory from their own player of the same name and instead been lumbered with an English-qualified Australian who has been playing in the Birmingham League.
With seven down and 79 to get, Yorkshire were in a pickle, but Fisher and Patterson approached their task with good judgment. Patel leaked boundaries from byes and leg byes, while Patterson drove Boyd Rankin from the attack with successive backfoot boundaries before dispatching Patel to the extra-cover boundary to reduce the requirement to 34 by lunch. Spectators by now were voicing noisy approval at every run, their loyalty restated.
The break for lunch did not unsettle the eighth-wicket pair as one imagined it might. Patterson unveiled cover drives against Patel in the first over after lunch with Boycott-esque aplomb. A brief hint of a running mix-up with 16 needed brought cries of alarm.
Two more lots of four byes past Tim Ambrose in another over from Patel took Yorkshire within six. When he pulled Chris Wright for four, leaving Yorkshire one short of victory, excited cries came from the Dickie Bird players’ balcony for the first time.
All that was left was Patterson’s final boundary and a guard of honour after the match for the real Ryan Sidebottom. Many in the crowd stayed. They got their send-off after all. The applause to a great servant was richly merited.
“Nivver in doubt,” you could imagine a malcontent saying. “Nivver wanted us to go down. Nivver. That’s paper talk.”
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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