THE TERM “squeaky-bum time” is often used at this time of year as the football season draws to a close.
But Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous phrase was equally appropriate at Headingley yesterday, where Yorkshire and Hampshire played out a thrilling finish in the opening match of the Championship season.
Left to make 320, the highest score of the game and the 10th-highest run-chase against Yorkshire in first-class cricket, Hampshire won by four wickets.
Victory was sealed six balls after the extra half-hour was claimed on day three, Gareth Berg lofting Ben Coad for a straight six to complete a seventh-wicket stand of 58 with Lewis McManus.
Defeat was a bitter pill for Yorkshire’s new captain Gary Ballance and new first-team coach Andrew Gale, whose side had led by 247 with seven second innings wickets standing on the second afternoon.
But a collapse from 115-3 to 187 all-out kept Hampshire’s target within manageable reach, and the visitors held their nerve despite slipping to 263-6 when the match could easily have gone either way. Jimmy Adams top-scored with 72, but Hampshire’s chase was a collective effort, with only Sean Ervine failing to reach double figures.
I guess a positive thing to come out of the game was that we’ve unleashed Ben Coad, who was absolutely outstanding. He’s definitely put his name in the hat for the rest of the season and shown that he’s well up to the task.Andrew Gale
Yorkshire toiled manfully despite missing five frontline bowlers to injury, Tim Bresnan taking three wickets and Ben Coad two, with Coad marking only his second Championship appearance with match figures of 8-133.
“It was a great game of cricket for the neutral and disappointing to be on the wrong end of it,” lamented Gale, who paid tribute to Hampshire. “I felt that we had opportunities to win the game, and we could have put the game to bed in our second innings.
“I didn’t think it was a 180 all-out pitch really, and if we’d got up to 250-odd, they’d have been chasing around 400, and it would have been a different game then.
“We also dropped a couple of catches early in their second innings, and it would have been a different game also at 20-2.”
The dropped catches in question came when Adam Lyth spilled Adams on 11 at second slip off Bresnan and Peter Handscomb missed Michael Carberry on six in the gully off Coad.
At the time, only seven runs had been added after Hampshire started the day on 10-0 in glorious sunshine, and the openers took advantage as they lifted their stand to 91 before Carberry pulled Coad to long-leg.
Yorkshire had to wait until the day’s 49th over for their second wicket, spinner Azeem Rafiq trapping Adams lbw.
The visitors slipped to 176-3 when James Vince was caught-and-bowled by Coad at ankle height, and then to 195-4 when Ervine aimed an airy-fairy cut at Bresnan and was caught behind.
At that stage, Hampshire were wobbling a touch, but a fifth-wicket stand of 57 between Rilee Rossouw and Liam Dawson put them on a much firmer footing.
But Yorkshire refused to go away as Bresnan had Rossouw caught behind off a loose drive outside off stump, which was closely followed by a brilliant catch from Bresnan off his own bowling as he somehow held a leading-edge off Dawson, flying to his left.
It was spectacular athleticism from Yorkshire’s new vice-captain, but, try as they might, the home team could not force their way down to the tail. Berg and McManus might have wilted amid the pressure of the chase but, to their credit, Hampshire showed the sort of backbone that one might expect from a side coached by former Yorkshire and England all-rounder Craig White.
Gale’s side showed backbone too, particularly in view of their injury list. With that in mind, the coach was particularly pleased with Coad’s display. “Coming into the game five frontline seamers down was always going to be hard work,” said Gale.
“But I guess a positive thing to come out of the game was that we’ve unleashed Ben Coad, who was absolutely outstanding.
“He’s definitely put his name in the hat for the rest of the season and shown that he’s well up to the task. When you have injuries, it’s a positive to see a performance like that, and, if we had had another frontline seamer fit, I’m sure that we’d have got over the line.”
Attention now turns to Friday’s trip to Warwickshire, where Yorkshire hope to have a couple of bowlers back from injury.
“Fingers crossed, David Willey and Matthew Fisher will be available,” said Gale.
“They are playing in a four-day second-team game against Lancashire at Old Trafford, and, if they pull through the first innings of that match, they could be available for Friday.
“Every game’s a tough game in the First Division, and Warwickshire will be no different.
“All we want now is to pick ourselves up and go again, and we’ve got a good record against Warwickshire lately.”