The Vikings welcomed the Vikings today at Headingley as the NFL came to town to show their love for leather on willow.
Yorkshire welcomed a Viking invasion from Minnesota as first teamers Phil Jaques, Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks and Minnesota stars John Sullivan, Harrison Smith and Kyle Rudolph swapped technique tips in the Headingley East Stand nets.
With the snow settling on the Headingley outfield, members of the media were given a treat as tight end offence Kyle Rudolph, a Pro Bowl player from this year, padded up and showed that he can bat with the best. Plunkett, Yorkshire’s new signing for this year, showed Rudolph the basics and within a few balls he was middling the ball with ease.
The most impressive aspect of his net was smacking the ball through the covers with the bowling machine ramped up to 99 mph – even Plunkett was in awe of Rudolph’s hand-to-eye coordination.
“I was very surprised how good Kyle’s (Rudolph) batting was,” said Plunkett. “Boy he could hit a ball. He creamed it a few times through the covers – he could well be a pinch hitter for the Vikings in this year’s Friends Life T20 competition. He could well follow in the footsteps of another famous Yorkshire player Jaques Rudolph.”
“I didn’t know much about cricket before coming to Headingley today,” added Rudolph, who helped the Minnesota Vikings reach this year’s play-offs in America’s number one sport.
“This is a great tie up between two big sports organisations in Minnesota and Yorkshire. I will certainly be following the Yorkshire team this year, via social media, and hope they have a big season. We have been made to feel very welcome and love the Yorkshire hospitality.”
Plunkett also believes the link with one of North America’s big sports franchise will continue to raise the profile of Yorkshire cricket on the other side of the pond.
“I’m a big American Sports fan and love the NFL,” added Plunkett. “This is a great opportunity to expose cricket to a wider market and more importantly Yorkshire Vikings. To have high-profile NFL players from the Minnesota Vikings come to our club is a great initiative and gives us some great momentum going into the new season.”
NFL side Minnesota are in Britain on a promotional tour of the UK promoting their match against Pittsburgh Steelers to be staged at Wembley Stadium in September.