By Paul Dyson

Yorkshire have not hosted Kent for seven years; the two counties first played against each other in 1849 but the first official fixture follwed 15 years later. Paul Dyson looks back at a recent game which decided the fate of the County Championship.

September 13, 14, 15, 16, 2010 at Headingley: Yorkshire 261 (JM Bairstow 64, JD Nel 6-62) & 130 (JC Tredwell 7-22); Kent 302 (AJ Blake 105*, M van Jaarsveld 89, MA Ashraf 5-32) & 90-6. Kent won by four wickets.

Yorkshire came into this match with a clear chance of winning the County Championship for the first time for nine years. Nottinghamshire led the table with Somerset two points behind and Yorkshire a further five adrift. Kent were at the opposite end of the table and would be relegated even if they gained maximum points (24) from this match.

Kent won the toss and asked the home side to bat on a green pitch. Yorkshire lost five wickets before passing the century-mark but Johnny Bairstow and Adil Rashid later shared a stand of 65. The former was still there on 62 not out at close of play by which time the scoreboard showed 205 for seven.

On the following morning Bairstow added two more runs before becoming the fourth victim of South African fast-medium bowler Dewald Nel. Steve Patterson shepherded the tail very effectively with a career-best 39 not out; he shared a stand of 52 with Moin Ashraf for the tenth wicket to take his side to an all-out total of 261. Nel finished with six for 62 despite being struck by Bairstow for three fours in one over. Kent began well with an opening stand of 44 which was ended by wicket-keeper taking a brilliant catch to dismiss Sam Northeast. Skipper Rob Key and Martin van Jaarsveld added 83 for the third wicket but two quick wickets for Ashraf saw the visitors slip to 142 for five. Alex Blake, at the time studying at Leeds Metropolitan University, then joined van Jaarsveld, the pair added 68 together but the latter, having made 89, became Ashraf’s third victim just prior to stumps being drawn when the score was 216 for six.

The shortened third day belonged to Blake. On 40 not out overnight, he found himself batting with the tail and although the last four batsmen scored a mere 15 runs between them, Blake made a further 65 to register the maiden first-class century of his career. (He has yet to register his second such score). The final four wickets added 92 and when Patterson took the final wicket, Blake was left on 105 not out. Ashraf took two more wickets to finish with five for 32. As with Blake, it was the first five-for of his first-class career (in his second Championship match) and, also, was never able to celebrate such a feat ever again. He was aged only 18 at the time and, because of this, was not allowed to bowl spells of longer than seven overs. Despite being behind by 41 on first innings Yorkshire were now intent on scoring quickly to set Kent a target to maintain their challenge on the title and had reached 51 for one by the end of day three.

The rain was holding Nottinghamshire up at Old Trafford and Durham’s batsmen were holding Somerset up so Yorkshire were still in with a chance of the title. With the total showing 93 for one the opportunity for pressing on was still evident but this was the point at which the second wicket stand of 53 from Adam Lyth and Anthony McGrath came to an end and started a most dramatic collapse. Nine wickets fell for 37 runs in 44 minutes and Yorkshire were all out for 130 in less than 30 overs for their lowest total of the season, it also being the first match of the campaign in which they had lost 20 wickets. Wisden’s comment was that, ‘pressing too desperately for triumph…[they] finally succumbed to panic’ but praised what was a very young side for delivering such a good campaign. James Tredwell did most damage taking seven for 22, including a hat-trick (Lyth, Brophy and Bairstow), to break the record for a Kent bowler at Headingley. He bowled accurately and flighted the ball well; his final six wickets came from only 19 balls at a cost of 15 runs – which included two sixes – and his side needed just 90 for their third victory of the campaign. At six for two, Yorkshire started to dream of a miracle on what was now a ‘dodgy pitch’ (Wisden) but Key and van Jaarsveld then added 62 together. Although the middle order collapsed again, four wickets falling for 14, the visitors held their nerve and got home by four wickets.

Neither Nottinghamshire nor Somerset could force victory in their final matches and both finished, amid scenes of high drama in Manchester, with the same number of points in the closest season-end for 33 years. The former, with one win more, claimed the title, but their points tallies meant that had Yorkshire beaten Kent they would have been champiouns. Never mind, the crowd were highly appreciative of the White Rose county’s most successful season since 2001 and treated the team to a standing ovation as they did a lap of homour.

Man of the Match

Moin Ashraf showed a great deal of promise in his early years in Yorkshire’s first team as a fast-medium bowler. He made his debut in 2010, at the age of 18, in first-class cricket, in a List A game a year later and in T20 cricket one year after that. It was in the last-named format that he was most successful, taking 15 wickets in 12 matches in 2012, helping Yorkshire reach finals day for the first time – at the tenth attempt – and proving a very effective ‘death’ bowler. His best performance was four for 18 at Derby.

Born in Bradford in 1992, Ashraf played for Yorkshire age-group teams and was with the Academy in 2009-10. As described above, he took five for 32 against Kent at Headingley in only his second Championship match, but seemed to lose form in this longer format in the two succeeding seasons, made no first eleven appearances for two years and was released after the 2014 campaign. For the county he finished his career with 43 wickets in 21 first-class matches, 23 in 22 List A games and 17 in 17 T20 matches.

Ashraf played for Hampshire in the Second Eleven Championship in 2015 and made seven appearances for Northamptonshire in T20 cricket in 2016. He also played for Leeds/Bradford MCCU in that season as well as the succeeding one. There appear to be no records of him having played in cricket at a high level, or good club cricket, after the 2017 season and it is sad to note that someone who showed such promise was lost to the game at the relatively young age of 25.

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