Yorkshire’s final pre-season match before the start of the County Championship season was a curiously egalitarian affair of the type which the ruthless regular campaign rarely allows. The prime directive seemed to be that as many players as possible should play plenty of cricket.
To that end the regulations governing the game were as elastic as a teenage gymnast. After both sides had batted for a day, it was decided on the final morning that Northants should occupy the crease for 150 minutes before a late lunch and that they would then declare regardless. In the afternoon session – there was to be no third helping of play – Yorkshire should attempt to knock off the runs required once their first innings lead of 33 had been deducted.
Slow left-armer Karl Carver took the honours on the third morning of Yorkshire’s practice match against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.
With each side facing a minimum of 40 overs on the final day of the game Carver returned figures of 7-2-20-2 as Northants were restricted to 176-5 off 41 overs at lunch.
The 18-year-old Northallerton-born spinner had both Steven Crook and Kyle Coetzer caught by Kane Williamson at cover in an impressive spell.
Jack Brooks, Moin Ashraf and Liam Plunkett also claimed a wicket apiece but most of the Northants batsmen enjoyed valuable time at the crease. Coetzer made 39 and Steven Crook, who handed out some pretty severe punishment to Adil Rashid’s first couple of overs, made 35.
It is unclear whether Yorkshire’s first innings lead of 33 will be taken into account when deciding any target Yorkshire will have to chase this afternoon but some may argue that it barely matters. Hard practice ahead of Sunday’s LV= Division One opener is what counts.
So far, so clear. Northants made 176 for five in 41 overs and Gary Ballance’s batsmen reached their target of 144 having lost two wickets, those of Adam Lyth, who retired on 37, and Adil Rashid, who holed out off James Middlebrook’s off-spin for 13. Kane Williamson’s pair of sixes off Matt Spriegel saw the visitors past their target, at which point they overshot the runway, as it were, and batted on.
Williamson was eventually stumped for a very fine 90 and both Olly Robinson and Barney Gibson had been dismissed by the time the players decided to come in and head for their various hills. If it mattered, Yorkshire were 160-5. One can see why the scorers dubbed the game “Other Match”.
Should the purists in the rather less than capacity crowd at Wantage Road have been concerned about these curious arrangements? Not at all. The only reason for this game taking place was to make sure the majority of the 22 cricketers were ready to play a County Championship fixture on Sunday, when Yorkshire go to Taunton and Northants entertain Durham. The game served its purpose admirably, even if scorers, hacks and the PA announcer were sometimes flummoxed as to what was going off out there.
It was valuable, therefore, that the quartet of Yorkshire seamers shared 21 overs yesterday morning. Inded, Jack Brooks, Moin Ashraf and Liam Plunkett celebrated their spells with a wicket apiece. However, the most impressive Yorkshire bowler was probably 18-year-old Karl Carver, Sessay’s finest, no less, who returned figures of 7-2-20-2 at at time when one or two Northants batsmen were looking to get a wriggle on.
Carver had both Kyle Coetzer and Steven Crook caught by Kane Williamson at cover, which is a triumph of alliteration, if nothing else. The England Under 19 bowler also kept a tight line and enhanced his reputation. More formidable tests lie ahead for him, no doubt. For the moment, though, he can be grateful for his three days of early April “other cricket” at Wantage Road.