Yorkshire have not played against Northamptonshire in the County Championship at Headingley since 2014 so there will be a fresh feel to this fixture with several players on show in this format in Yorkshire for the first time. The midland county became the competition’s 16th county when it joined in 1905 but did not appear on Yorkshire’s fixture list until three years later. Paul Dyson looks back at an exciting game towards the end of the last century.
July 31, August 1, 2, 4, 1997 at Headingley: Yorkshire 166 (JP Taylor 6-45) & 332 (C White 67, RJ Blakey 51, RJ Bailey 4-10); Northamptonshire 286 (KM Curran 63, RJ Bailey 61, CEW Silverwood 4-62) & 176 (C White 5-31). Yorkshire won by 36 runs.
Northamptonshire have traditionally been one of the very weakest counties in the Championship and they, along with Gloucestershire and Somerset) have yet to register their first title. In the five seasons from 1934 they collected five successive ‘wooden spoons’ – an unwanted record which remains so. However, the 1990s were very different and the four seasons from 1992 represent their only sequence of four successive top-five finishes.
Coming into this match the two counties had each played ten matches and had similar records in the current campaign. Yorkshire had won three and lost two and the visitors had won two and lost two. David Byas won the toss for the hosts but soon saw his side slip to 51 for four; all four wickets were taken by the left-arm fast-medium pace of Paul Taylor whose ‘movement off the seam and extra bounce proved too much’ (Wisden). Although there was something of a recovery Northamptonshire’s seamers held sway, the innings never really got going and at the end of a truncated day the scoreboard was showing 163 for nine, no batsman scoring more than Bradley Parker’s 26.
Taylor took the final wicket early on the second day for the addition of only three runs and finished with six for 45. The pitch ‘offered assistance to the bowlers throughout’ (Ibid.) and it was now Yorkshire’s turn to exploit the conditions. Chris Silverwood soon took two wickets to reduce Northamptonshire to ten for two but there then followed a century partnership between David Roberts and skipper Rob Bailey before the loss of four more wickets changed the game again although the visitors were now only three behind. Bailey made a half-century as did Zimbabwean Kevin Curran, who held the innings together until York-born Scott Boswell hit out and help give his side a lead of 120. Silverwood ended with four wickets and there were three wickets for Craig White, both bowling fast-medium. Despite the conditions, however, there were also three wickets for the left-arm spin of Richard Stemp. Yorkshire now had to bat well to stay in the game; by close of play they had shown their intent by reaching 74 for no wicket.
The third day started with Yorkshire’s young opening pair of Anthony McGrath and Michael Vaughan taking their stand to 90 before they were separated, each batsman falling in the 40s. Left-handed Australian Darren Lehmann, in his first season with Yorkshire, also fell for a similar score and it was not until the total read 205 for five that the first really meaningful innings unfolded. Craig White and wicket-keeper Richard Blakey shared a century-partnership for the sixth wicket, both making half-centuries. Northamptonshire were bowling ‘much too short’ (Ibid.) and the hosts were taking advantage of this as well as Blakey being dropped at slip early in his innings. He and White took Yorkshire passed the 300-mark but the last five wickets fell for 25 runs and Northamptonshire’s target was 213. Four of these final five wickets fell to Bailey’s rarely-used off-breaks, his remarkable figures showing 11.1-5-10-4. Northamptonshire began their run-chase well reaching 78 for one by close of play.