Friday 2nd July 2021 – The Vitality Blast T20 – Headingley, Leeds
You would rarely leave a film before the end would you? Or a play? Or even a meal, skipping out before desert? So why do people leave sporting events before the end? Well this game was the perfect example of why you shouldn’t.
I was never destined to attend this game. Having bought my ticket back in May, it was with disappointment that with a week to go, Yorkshire were forced to roll-back on their original estimation of capacity and I was one of the unlucky parties to have their tickets cancelled.
This was the final leg of my South to North T20 week-long adventure and had ben coincided so I could fulfil some in-law duties on the way back home. Faced with the alternative of heading north to watch Durham vs Leicestershire, I tried every option without luck to secure a ticket to arguably the biggest game in domestic cricket.
If you don’t ask, you don’t want, is an old adage that often bears fruit so despite having a ticket for the Durham game, I sent a polite email to Yorkshire’s ticket office and ask if any ticket became available, please think of me, and the logistics of my tour.
I’d headed over the Moors at lunchtime on the Friday and met up with my good friend, and publisher, Hartch on his home territory just outside Huddersfield. At 4pm when we departed I hopefully checked my email. Nothing from Yorkshire so I headed north. The weather didn’t look good, neither did the traffic and as I hit Thirsk, I joined a long line of traffic on the A1 (M). I checked my email again, and this time I was in luck. A ticket had become available and as long as I could get to the ticket office at Headingley by 6.15pm, it was mine.
It was going to be tight, especially finding somewhere to park near the ground but it appeared as if I was going to the ball. Fortune was on my side – not only was the traffic good heading south but major resurfacing work around the ground had effectively removed all yellow lines in the area and so I parked up within a two minute walk to the ticket office, paid for my ticket and was in the ground before the umpires wandered onto the field, accompanied by the Yorkshire opening batsmen.
My seat was in row 1, almost behind the bowlers arm at the Football Ground End….except of course it isn’t a Football Ground…it is a rugby (league) ground. The stand is huge, with seats on both sides so you can either watch cricket or rugby league, but not obviously at the same time.
Despite the significantly reduced attendance, there was a decent bit of noise coming from the corner of the Western Terrace, arguably the most vocal cricket stand in England. Not quite up to the level of Bay 13 at the MCG, but certainly “lively”. The fancy dress was out in force though for this Friday night clash, which in normal times would have been sold out twice over.
Yorkshire lost Stoneman and Thompson within the first five overs, and had Lancashire pressed their advantage, could have had the hosts on the rocks but Lyth and Harry Brook took control, adding 77 runs in nine overs, never really giving the visitors a sniff of a wicket.
I wandered down to the concourse to grab a beer and in the process missed Lyth holing out to Jones and Ballance going for just 5. However Brook and Hill continued to push the run rate, with the former giving it his all to try to get to a century in the last two overs. The White Roses eventually finishing on 180/4.
The noise on the Western Terrace had risen proportionally to the amount of alcohol consumed and when the beach balls came out at the start of the innings, so did the stewards, unhappy with just frivolity.
In the sixth over, Lancashire had only managed 34 but had lost three wickets. The game was firmly in Yorkshire’s control. When Jennings fell for 37 at the end of the eleventh over they still needed 110 with just six wickets left. Victory was improbable.
We love sport because the improbable can become possible. Jones and Croft built their partnership slowly but added 85 in 8 overs, before Croft was the first victim of the hands of Adam Lyth. Lancashire needed 26 off 7 balls. And I took that as the opportunity to depart. There was no way they could reach the target and I was all drama’d out after a week of cricket. I admit that is a poor excuse but in nine games out of ten, I would have missed nothing. This was that one exception.
Jones smashes the 7th from the end of the innings for a six. Wells gets a single, then a stroke of luck as there are three wides chalked up. Four balls to go and the target is 15. Jones smashed the ball to the boundary and then takes a single. Ten off three balls. The game is there for Lancashire to lose.
Ferguson runs in to Wells and he hits it straight to Lyth to claim the wicket and more importantly, a dot ball. Next ball he bowls Wood to win the game, with Lancashire now needing ten off the final ball. So what does Ferguson do? Claims his hatrick of course, with Lyth taking a third catch to dismiss Hartley.
The home side were in control of the game for 38 of the 40 overs and deserved the win but the brilliant element of sport meant that those 2 overs made it just possible for a Lancashire victory.
Of course I regretted seeing the final drama unfold. This was the Roses match but the limit on capacity meant that it was never going to have that passion, atmosphere and edge off the field. I will be back, in 2022, when the fans will be there in their thousands and really contributing to the best of the best in T20 atmosphere.