Yorkshire 260 for 4 (Lyth 161) beat Northants 136 (Levi 65, Rafiq 5-19) by 124 runs
Adam Lyth achieved the highest T20 score ever witnessed in England and Yorkshire laid claim to the highest team total on a memorable night at Headingley which left the NatWest Blast defending champions, Northamptonshire, reeling.
Lyth’s 161 from 73 balls, with 20 fours and seven sixes, an innings of clean-hitting simplicity, is eclipsed only by Chris Gayle’s 175 not out from 66 balls for Royal Challengers Bangalore against Pune Warriors, and by Hamilton Mazakadza’s unbeaten 162 for Mountaineers against Eagles, made last year in the once placid setting of Bulawayo.
Yorkshire’s 260 for 4 was the equal-third highest total in T20 history, surpassed only by RCB’s 263 for 5 in that same Gayle-inspired run fest and Australia’s 263 for 3 against Sri Lanka in Pallekele last year.
It was hard to believe that Lyth’s suitability for T20 was once in doubt as he concentrated – so far without much reward – on turning himself into an England Test opening batsman. Now routinely overlooked since playing the last of his seven Tests two years ago, he has been Yorkshire’s batting lead in T20 all summer, relying on an uncluttered technique in which he blazes through the line, depositing the ball square through the offside off an angled face or crashing it over straight midwicket.
Yorkshire, who emerged with a 136-run victory, and a massively swollen net run rate which might just tip qualification in their favour if sides finish on equal points, must wait for the North Group to play out on Friday night before learning if they have secured a quarter-final place. They lie second and need results to fall in their favour because five sides can finish with more points. If they do go through, it will be based on a powerful home record which has seen them win 11 of their last 12 matches at Headingley.
Northants’ attention now turns to a home match against Durham on Friday knowing that victory might still be enough to take them through.
Yorkshire’s victory did not look entirely assured while Richard Levi, who has the ample physical presence of an old-time butcher – one with a slaughterhouse out the back – cleaved 65 from 32 balls. But Azeem Rafiq responded with a nerveless display of offspin, plopping it on a length, not finding notable turn, but returning a career-best 5 for 19 all the same. Levi was the third to fall, belting him to long-on. Adam Rossington was bowled, making room, Josh Cobb nicked a catch to the keeper as he charged down the pitch, and two leg-side boundary catches made up his quintet.
World records were still possible for Lyth – and Yorkshire – when he fell three balls from the end of the innings, mis-timing Azharullah to long-on. His first obvious moment of fortune came against Azharullah on 106 when Ben Duckett made a slovenly attempt to hold a catch at long-off, perhaps distracted by the presence of Rob Keogh. He should also have been run out on 116 when a relay between Rossington, the keeper, and his bowler, Azharullah.
Generally, though, he looted the Northants attack much as he pleased. Much has been made of Northants’ Moneyball approach to assembling an admirably successful squad on a limited budget. On this evidence, Lyth is not a big reader. When it comes to relaxation, he prefers golf. “It was a lot of fun,” he said.
Gary Ballance, back to skipper Yorkshire after a recovering from a broken finger which saw him lose his Test place, did not even get in to bat. Lyth shared an opening stand of 127 in 9.4 overs with Tom Kohler-Cadmore, maintained the rate in another century stand – 124 – with David Willey. Tim Bresnan made a first-ball duck with the score 251 for 2 and trudged off laughing at the madness of it all.
Yorkshire’s 80-run Powerplay was a county record – to be surpassed by Northants’ 85 later in the evening, enough to silence Headingley’s crowing for a while. Kohler-Cadmore, initially the more conservative, was a perfect foil, possessing muscular power down the ground, until he drove Keogh to short extra. A mid-season signing from Worcestershire, he has grown into his season.
The Headingley surface – worn but true – was designed for Yorkshire’s spinners, in the knowledge that Northants two part-time offspinners, Keogh and Josh Cobb, were bowlers of few pretensions, but it was the quick bowlers who took a pasting.
Richard Gleeson, who has had an excellent season, and who summoned speeds above 90mph, spilt 61 from four overs, but that was economical compared to his new-ball partner, Ben Sanderson, who went for 77.
English records fell Lyth’s way: Brendon McCullum’s 158 for Warwickshire against Derbyshire in 2015 and Gloucestershire’s team total of 254. World records were on with Yorkshire 249 for 1 and Lyth 148. But Rory Kleinveldt and Azharullah produced two excellent overs at the death to avoid that ignominy.
No matter, the night belonged to Lyth, the shaven-headed left-hander. “More natural talent than Joe Root – or any of the others,” was the gist of what Andrew Gale said before he stepped up from captain to coach.
Root, the one more feted, made a hundred in the first floodlit Test in England, against West Indies at Edgbaston, Lyth set his records at Headingley and has become a crowd favourite in all formats. To Yorkshire minds, they’ll both do.