Vikings still fighting for honours on two fronts

Alex Lees and his Yorkshrie Vikings players.
Alex Lees and his Yorkshrie Vikings players.
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After a tremulous first half of the season in one-day cricket, Yorkshire Vikings are now in a solid and unflinching patch of form that could bring them unexpected success on two fronts.

They are in with a shout of making it through to the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast after qualification at one stage had seemed a mere pipedream.

And on Sunday they renew their Royal London One-Day Cup campaign well placed to gain a last-eight place in that competition, also.

But first, captain Alex Lees and his team are focused solely on tonight’s T20 Blast confrontation with Northamptonshire Steelbacks at Headingley, fully aware that they must avoid double-trouble against the Wantage Road table-toppers.

Vikings’ rousing 49-run win over Durham Jets on a balmy Wednesday evening at Headingley put them level on points with the Jets but just one place short of a top-four qualifying spot in North Group.

Now they round up their Group programme with home and away games against Steelbacks who they visit next Friday.

Lees is under no illusions that Yorkshire will have to be at their very best in both encounters and that they cannot afford to slip up in either match.

“To play the leaders twice will be tough,” he said. “Northants have played some good one-day cricket this season and they will come hard at us.

“We need to win both games to stand a chance of qualifying and we will give it our best go.”

That Yorkshire should still be very much in the mix seemed unthinkable in mid-June after defeats in their first three matches and then two ‘no results’ left them propping up the table.

But five wins from their next seven games has changed their fortunes and their renaissance has much to do with the form of Adam Lyth who was also largely responsible for a couple of stirring victories in the Royal London One-Day Cup.

Until Wednesday’s T20 clash with Durham, Lyth was his club’s second leading run-scorer to Kane Williamson who has now rejoined New Zealand.

Lyth had made several rapid starts without being able to capitalise on them but against Jets he blazed the trail to a career-best 87 off 54 balls with 11 fours and three sixes to lead Vikings to their best ever T20 score of 223-6, the second-highest total in the competition so far this season.

And it was a good sign for Yorkshire that he received such splendid support from Australian Travis Head who contributed 34 to an 83 stand with Lyth in nine overs.

This was Head’s first home appearance – he contributed 40 against Notts Outlaws at Trent Bridge the previous week – and the 8,076 crowd had immediate evidence of what a good player he is.

Head was content to let Lyth continue his savage assault but he still made his 34 off only 24 balls with two fours and two sixes.

And although this was a 20-over match it was still blatantly obvious that here was a batsman who will also be a big asset in red-ball cricket.

Lyth’s contributions in the 50-over contest this summer have been even more dramatic and bottom-of-the-table Leicestershire Foxes will be keen to get rid of him just as quickly as possible when the Vikings visit the Fischer County Ground, Grace Road, on Sunday.

His sparkling 125 helped Yorkshire to overtake Northamptonshire’s challenging 310-7 at Scarborough and in the following match he smashed 136 as the White Rose humiliated Lancashire at Old Trafford by beating them by 242 runs, Yorkshire’s biggest List A runs win.

Yorkshire have named an unchanged squad of 14 for tonight’s game with Steelbacks at Headingley.

Squad: Alex Lees (captain), Tim Bresnan, Ben Coad, Travis Head, Andy Hodd (w), Jack Leaning, Adam Lyth, Steve Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Azeem Rafiq, Will Rhodes, Matthew Waite, David Willey.

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