Middlesex v Yorkshire: Poor batting cost us, admits Gale after Lord’s defeat

Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance in action.
Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance in action.
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THE LONGEST day of the year certainly felt like it for Yorkshire, who suffered a taxing defeat at the home of cricket.

Forced to follow-on 238 runs behind, they were bowled out for 174 with 25.3 overs left on day three.

It was their fourth successive Championship defeat at Lord’s – for them, not so much a home from home as a theatre of torment.

There were certainly no cries of “can we play you every week?” from the sizeable travelling contingent as they slipped away from St John’s Wood.

Reasons for Yorkshire’s second Championship defeat of the summer – and reigning champions Middlesex’s first victory – were not difficult to discern.

For the umpteenth time, Yorkshire’s batting let them down with the reliability of teenagers disappointing their parents.

“You must do better with the bat’, ‘You must show greater consistency’,” command the Yorkshire coaches ad nauseam. They might as well appeal for an outbreak of world peace, a similarly futile and fanciful request.

“From a batting point of view, we were well below-par,” admitted first team coach Andrew Gale.

“We’ve talked about it for a while – we had some strong words during this game – and you expect a response. To be bowled out twice like we were is poor, and there were soft dismissals in there.

“I back the lads 100 per cent, but there’s a point where the bowlers can’t keep getting the batsmen out of jail, and it showed in this game.”

One would have got long odds on the match ending inside three days after only four wickets fell on day one.

In retrospect, it was an advantageous toss for Middlesex to win as they made 337-4 on that first day, with the pitch becoming increasingly difficult as cracks appeared beneath the hot sun.

The temperature at Lord’s yesterday was 34 degrees, practically warm enough to make toast without the need for a toaster.

The only thing toasted, however, was the Yorkshire batting, which remains a major area of concern going forward.

The key question going into yesterday’s action was whether Middlesex would enforce the follow-on, with Yorkshire resuming on 186-9 in their first innings, 260 adrift.

As rumours circulated of potential thunderstorms on day four, they decided to take the positive approach after Ryan Sidebottom was caught behind with the score on 208, leaving captain Gary Ballance stranded on 69.

That approach was emphatically justified in the early stages of the Yorkshire second innings when three wickets fell on 16.

Adam Lyth pushed forward and was caught behind, Harry Brook flashed at a wide one and was also caught behind, and Alex Lees edged to second slip, Tim Murtagh and Toby Roland-Jones doing the damage.

Ballance and Peter Handscomb steadied the ship in the run-up to lunch, which Yorkshire took on 52-3, but Ballance’s departure to the second ball after the break to a catch behind off Roland-Jones was a major blow.

Handscomb lasted 100 minutes before cutting a rank long hop from Finn to point, a shot that rather summed up Yorkshire’s woes.

Andrew Hodd was bowled through the gate by spinner Ollie Rayner, Adil Rashid steered James Franklin to the wicketkeeper, and Jack Brooks came down the track to Rayner and was caught at mid-on.

After Yorkshire entered tea on 153-8, Ben Coad pulled the fourth delivery of the evening session from Rayner straight to mid-wicket, as though the ball was an iron and the fielder a magnet.

It brought in last man Sidebottom, who was touchingly applauded to the crease by the sun-drenched crowd.

It was Sidebottom’s last appearance at Lord’s in this, his final season, and he can reflect on having led a spirited bowling effort earlier in the game, with the visitors, in mitigation, having the worst of conditions and, it might be said, the umpiring too.

Yorkshire’s fitness levels were also impressive; after the furnace-like heat of day one, which Gale described as the “toughest conditions you’ll get in county cricket”, they did well to end the Middlesex innings early on day two, when there must have been plenty of sore as well as sun-tanned limbs.

Of course, the Middlesex players did not extend the same sentiment towards Sidebottom as the Middlesex crowd, and the match ended when he was caught at silly-point trying to reverse sweep Rayner, with Steve Patterson finishing unbeaten on 30.

The game marked the halfway stage of Yorkshire’s Championship campaign, which continues with Monday’s day/night match against Surrey at Headingley, for which the hosts will have their England players available.

“We’re still in the hunt,” reflected Gale.

“We’ve got five home games left, two of them at Scarborough, and I think our home form is going to be key to us being successful.”

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