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Rain curtails exciting University match

— 14 April 2012

The rain fell to spoil what looked like it was going to be an exciting climax to the three-day fixture at Headingley. Yorkshire were two wickets down and 180 short of the winning line when the heavens opened. The Leeds Bradford MCCU can take huge credit though for the way they played their cricket to make their county opposition fight hard.

Joe Root had been trapped leg before to Ivan Thomas to the second ball of Yorkshire’s chase for 266 to win. Anthony McGrath hit his first ball beautifully straight for four and then he, on 16, and Joe Sayers (19) played sensibly until lunch against a University seam attack that has been extremely consistent. Luis Reece and Ivan Thomas look in particular look exciting prospects.



After the interval McGrath began to play some delightful strokes. One cover drive off Higginbottom was of the very highest class and an over later he stroked Reece straight to the Rugby Stand as your correspondent purred with delight.

The students have been an impressive bunch, particularly in the field, and after the first ball of the 20th over and the fourth ball of the 26th they bowled 33 dots to keep Yorkshire pegged at 73-1.

That pressure told as McGrath, on 43, was lbw to Leech only two balls after he had freed the shackles somewhat with a boundary.

McGrath has looked in top nick throughout pre-season and, in my opinion, calls for his exit from 1st XI duties are off the mark. With Phil Jaques available for selection for the Essex match next week the job of Gale and Gillespie is not an easy one.

Playing seven top order batsmen with McGrath as an allrounder, he has taken 7-65 against the students with the ball and at this time of year is a genuine threat, is an option with four of Rashid, Shahzad, Sidebottom, Wardlaw, Patterson and Hannon-Dalby making up the side. Again there will be some disappointed folk.

Patterson was the pick of the pace attack, particularly in the second innings. If the weather, however unlikely this seems, stays dry, Rafiq could also be considered. Rather the selection panel than me!!

A heavy hail storm at 3.05pm saw tea taken early with the score 91-2 and Yorkshire 175 short of winning the match.

Bright sunshine had bathed Headingley as Leeds Bradford MCCU resumed at 127-6 in their second innings and with a lead of 203 ahead of a final day that could be an absolute cracker!!

Azeem Rafiq claimed two wickets in his first two overs when he had Luis Reece (60) skying to Iain Wardlaw at mid-on and Alex MacQueen (3) caught by Joe Root at short leg.

Reece was understandably annoyed with himself after playing so well the evening before. A rush of blood had cost him a realistic chance of a Headingley hundred and denied his side a solid start.

Steve Patterson claimed his third wicket when Tom Hardman was lbw for 44 and Oliver Hannon-Dalby claimed the final wicket of Thomas to leave Leeds Bradford MCCU 189 all out. Anthony McGrath ended with 4-37, Steve Patterson 3-71 and Azeem Rafiq 2-30.

Yorkshire required 266 runs, the MCCU needed 10 wickets, but neither side got the opportunity to get their because of the British weather.

One thing cannot be debated – the Leeds Bradford MCCU, after narrowly losing to Surrey and more than worrying Yorkshire at Headingley, have done a lot to calm the debate on whether university matches should be first-class fixtures. The students at Headingley over the last few days have been first class. 



Another day of mixed fortunes for the Tykes as they surrendered a 76 run first innings deficit, were bolstered by excellent spells by Steve Patterson and Anthony McGrath, but were frustrated by an unbroken seventh wicket partnership which takes the game into Day 3 with all results still possible.

Steve Patterson hit his straps early in the Leeds Bradford MCCU second innings with a probing spell that claimed the wickets of Webb and Bush, both leg before with only 9 runs on the board. By tea the students were 22-2 with a lead of 98 runs.

It was then Anthony McGrath who took the spotlight, claiming 4-27 in 8 overs of nibbling seam he brought the Tykes back into the match.

Joe Leach (5) lobbed an aimless drive into the hands of Hannon-Dalby at mid-on and then a trio of successful lbw shouts saw the back of Ben Slater (15) and Dan Hodgson in successive balls and also Rick Moore (10) and the students were 56-6.

A seventh wicket partnership between Luis Reece and Tom Hardman then put a spanner in the works. The two students batted with purpose as Reece added a second innings fifty from 66 balls with 7 fours and a six to Friday’s 50.

Hardman had made 28 when he edged the returning McGrath low to Lyth’s left at second slip and the chance was spilled. A couple of balls later Brophy put down Reece, on 56 when Rafiq got one to bounce and the score remained 126-6 with the partnership worth 70. Ballance made a valiant attempt to scoop up a ball from slip when Hardman edged in the same penultimate over of the day.

The lead had stretched to 203 at the close with Reece on 58 and Hardman on 28. An interesting day beckons tomorrow.

Play commenced after an early lunch was taken early at 1pm after morning rain. Gerard Brophy got the scoreboard ticking with a lovely back foot drive off Reece through the covers but he and Azeem Rafiq knew there was much work to be done.

Rafiq fluently struck Higginbottom to the cover fence and in his next over top-edged a square cut over second slip to take Yorkshire into three figures. Two balls later he played the best shot of the game when he despatched Higginbottom to the cover fence.

But Rafiq’s charge ended on 28 when he fenced at a shorter ball from Leach and presented a comfortable catch to gloveman Dan Hodgson.

Steve Patterson was adjudged lbw to Leach for 6 despite a hefty stride. And on the same score Brophy was caught at first slip by Richard Moore off Thomas for 23 to plunge Yorkshire to 129-9.

Iain Wardlaw (1) was the last man out caught at short mid-wicket by Reece off Leach and Yorkshire were all out 76 runs behind the students first innings total.   


Yorkshire closed Day 1 on 80-6 in reply to Leeds Bradford MCCU’s 211 all out, still 131 runs adrift.

Joe Root (8) was somewhat unfortunate to be lbw to Thomas when the ball barely bounced and McGrath, on 8, looked fortunate to escape an lbw appeal when not playing a stroke, but he and Joe Sayers continued Yorkshire’s response against a seam attack that bowled a more consistent line than managed by the Tykes earlier.

Gradually Sayers and McGrath grew to their task. McGrath swatting Thomas to the cover fence and Sayers producing a flowing off-driven boundary in Reece’s next over. Both were looking assured, but McGrath (21) aimed a drive in Higginbottom’s second over and his off pole was on the floor and in the next over Sayers lazilly cut at Reece and was caught by Webb at cover for 35.

The first ball Reece bowled to Adam Lyth beat hisn outside edge and the second took it to be caught behind and the score was 66-4. Yorkshire had lost 3 wickets for no runs in 6 balls.

An Andrew Gale square drive for 2 finally broke the run drought as he and Gary Ballance fought to put the wheels back on. But Gale was bowled by Higginbottom and Ballance was lbw to Reece before bad light brought a premature end to Yorkshire’s at 80-6.

Azeem Rafiq (8*) and Gerard Brophy, yet to score, will resume tomorrow morning.

Leeds Bradford MCCU won the toss and batted. Ben Slater had played confidently for 14 when he tipped Oliver Hannon-Dalby back down the pitch, the bowler threw to Adam Lyth at the batsman’s end leaving the opener stranded. Harry Bush was caught by Ballance at first slip to his first ball from Hannon-Dalby and the MCCU were 23-2.

Steve Patterson found Jonathan Webb’s edge which was snaffled by Anthony McGrath at second slip for 5 from 46 balls. Joe Leach (11) was leg before to the tight McGrath and Dan Hodgson was brilliantly caught behind for a duck by Gerard Brophy diving full length to his right off Iain Wardlaw and the MCCU were 50-5 in the 25th over.

Richard Moore, the MCCU’s skipper, joined Luis Reece and the pair played with determination at a decent lick. Azeem Rafiq saw Reece’s edge pass through Ballance and Brophy to safety when he score was 90-5 and Reece on 28 and by lunch the pair had progressed their side’s total to 95-5.

Just two balls after lunch McGrath dislodged Moore lbw for 29, ending the sixth wicket stand on 47. Hardman was caught by Lyth at second slip wafting limply at the impressive McGrath who was the pick of the bowlers on show.

Reece (40) flashed Patterson high to Sayers at third slip, the fielder doing well to cling on two-handed and the MCCU were 114-8. Reece had faced 77 balls and hit 6 fours.

Alex MacQueen hit Azeem Rafiq straight to bring up the 150 in the 48th over and with Matt Higginbottom he steered the students on as Yorkshire’s falibility against lower order fightbacks reared its ugly head. Rafiq was in the firing line again as MacQueen blazed him into the Rugby Stand for six and the right-hander, making his first-class debut, looked compact, organised and grew in confidence.

It had been an impressive rearguard which ended with the 9th wicket stand worth 95 which equalled the record for the 9th wicket by any university. MacQueen’s stay ended rather tamely when he steered Hannon-Dalby to Rafiq at gully for 69. Ivan Thomas tested Rafiq more when he hit Hannon-Dalby hard to him after adding 2, but Rafiq held again and the MCCU were all out for 211.

Anthony McGrath took 3-28 and Oliver Hannon-Dalby ended with 3-36, but tailend resistance once again tainted the Tykes display.

The lessons learned in the shoot-out to take Pyrah’s place against Essex next week?

Oliver Hannon-Dalby has pushed his nose in front of the pace pack, but McGrath has reminded us that he has more than one string to his bow. If Phil Jaques is to oust a top order batsman next week, Mags has done his best to reposition himself as an all-rounder

On a personal note, it has really disheartened me to see the number of people laying into Mags before his season has properly begun. Call me old fashioned, but I always understood support to be trying to lift up your players and side, not knock them down at every opportunity. Anthony played through injury to try and assist the team in 2011, it didn’t work out as he’d have liked, but there is no one more committed to making things happen in 2012 after looking very good in pre-season and working hard on his game and fitness over the winter.

Don’t forget Yorkshire players are human beings just like you!!



As the first-class status awarded to all Marylebone Cricket Club University (MCCU) matches comes under increased scrutiny after Durham MCCU’s 18 all out against Durham last week, Yorkshire welcome Leeds Bradford MCCU to Headingley for a three-day fixture starting on Friday.

Leeds Bradford MCCU had done a lot to bolster the reputation of the MCCU fixtures after narrowly missing out on victory over Surrey at The Oval in early April.

Their 2-run defeat chasing a victory target of 315 owed much to Yorkshire’s summer contracted player Dan Hodgson who was 9th man out after hitting 64. Dan was caught in the deep and must have wondered ‘what if’ he hadn’t attempted to belt a second six his side might well have got home. But that’s what these MCCU matches are all about, for players like Dan to gain experience from playing against quality opposition.

Other Leeds Bradford MCCU players in good form – Amercian born Harry Bush scored 70 and 41 against Surrey, Joe Leach scored fifty in The Oval run chase and took 4-73 in Surrey’s first innings.

Leeds Bradford MCCU will hope to redress the balance in the debate about whether university encounters should retain their first-class status, or indeed whether they are fit and proper opposition for first-class counties in any guise.

Durham MCCU’s total of 18, as they were bowled out in only 101 deliveries, was the lowest innings total in first-class cricket anywhere in the world since 1983 and it equalled the tenth lowest score since 1900.

Durham MCCU lost by 373 runs and their coach, former England and Lancashire batsman Graeme Fowler said: “It’s the worst day we’ve ever had, it was dreadful. But, while we’ve had a nightmare, I hope people remember the good we do for the game. You know Michael Schumacher has the odd car crash: he’s still a pretty good driver. We played some soft cricket and the guys have left under no illusions that they have not performed well enough. They are mortified by their performance. I just hope that, because of one nightmare performance, people don’t forget all the good things we have done for England cricket.”

Talking about the first-class status debate, Fowler added: “At the time we started, I never thought we should have been given first-class status. It just seemed like we were producing a rod for our own back to judge us by first-class results. That is not really what we are about. I wanted us to play against the counties – that is important – but I didn’t see why those games had to be defined as first-class. There was already debate about whether Oxford and Cambridge should have first-class status but then they added us to the list and last winter they added Leeds/Bradford and Cardiff, too. I’m not convinced that is the right approach. The problem is that if we lose the first-class status we may well lose the funding, too.”

One thing is for sure, there will be eleven players in Leeds Bradford MCCU colours at Headingley from Friday, desperate to put on a good show, build their personal CVs and improve their own first-class statistics. Some of them may well have long first-class careers ahead of them.

This match is the second first-class fixtures for Leeds Bradford MCCU this season. They play a final fixture against Sussex at Weetwood (1-3 May), but contrary to the first incarnation of this preview that match is not a first-class fixture.

Admission to Headingley on all three days is FREE.



Joe ROOT, Joe SAYERS, Anthony McGRATH, Andrew GALE (capt), Adam LYTH, Gary BALLANCE, Azeem RAFIQ, Gerard BROPHY (wk), Steve PATTERSON, Iain WARDLAW and Oliver HANNON-DALBY.

Yorkshire rest Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid, Ajmal Shahzad and Ryan Sidebottom from the side that drew with Kent in the Championship. Richard Pyrah is sidelined for some weeks with a broken left hand.


Rick MOORE (capt, Leeds Met, Cheshire, MCCU Combined XI), Harry BUSH (Leeds Uni, Norfolk, MCCU Combined XI), Tommy HARDMAN (Leeds Met, Lancashire Academy), Matt HIGGINBOTTOM (Leeds Met, Derbyshire CCC), Dan HODGSON (Leeds Uni, Yorkshire CCC), Joe LEACH (Leeds Uni, Worcs CCC), Alex MacQUEEN (Leeds Uni, Surrey Academy), Luis REECE (Leeds Met, Lancashire CCC, Unicorns, MCCU Combined XI), Ben SLATER (Leeds Met, Derbyshire CCC), Ivan THOMAS (Leeds Uni, Kent CCC), William VANDERSPAR (Leeds Uni, Middlesex CCC) and Jonathan WEBB (Leeds Uni, Warwickshire CCC).


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