Ajmal Shahzad returned to action after two weeks out through injury to help Yorkshire to a fifth successive Clydesdale Bank 40 win, this time by eight wickets against Middlesex at Lord’s today.
The 24 year-old pace ace returned his best figures in a competitive one-day match, 4-34 from eight overs, to restrict the hosts to 183-9 after they had elected to bat first on a used pitch.
Middlesex were hamstrung by the fact that only Gareth Berg made it up to or beyond 40, and it was left to Jacques Rudolph to show them how to bat. The 29 year-old opener shared a stand of 102 inside 21 with Andrew Gale for the first wicket, and later 65 inside 13 with Adam Lyth for the second. The competition’s leading run scorer finished 86 not out off 115 balls, including seven fours and one six, as Yorkshire completed the win with 18 balls to spare.
Shahzad has been out of action for the last fortnight with a combination of hamstring and ankle injuries, but was celebrating the retention of his place in the England Test squad ahead of the Pakistan series. He was the only one of the 12-man squad named by Andy Flower in county action today, owing much to the fact he needed to prove his fitness to the Zimbabwean. And that he did, in the perfect manner, during his first appearance at the home of cricket.
Tim Bresnan was omitted from Flower’s party for Trent Bridge, but responded well with 2-32 from eight, while left arm spinner David Wainwright also added a couple of wickets and Adil Rashid one.
Shahzad struck in his first over, just the second of the match, when he had Scott Newman caught behind by Jonny Bairstow. He later bowled Tom Scollay (32) in the 38th over before Tom Smith was caught at mid off by Wainwright and Shaun Udal was caught and bowled – a skied effort – in his last over, the last of the innings.
Captain Gale and Rudolph then shared their second century partnership of the competition at the top of the order, and their fourth above 50 in five matches, to leave the result in no doubt whatsoever.
There was no flaying – although Rudolph did hit Udal six over long off – to increase their net run-rate, it was just calm, simple batting against a blunt Middlesex attack. Such was the ease with which the pair batted, it brought back memories of that unbroken double hundred partnership against Essex at Chelmsford to start the competition in May. But, when Gale was stumped by John Simpson off the spin of Australian born Scollay at the start of the 21st over for 39 off 54 balls, the chances of another ten wicket win had evaporated.
Rudolph, who had passed 50 for the fourth time in the competition off 62 balls, now had Lyth for company.
The country’s first man to reach 1,000 Championship runs this summer, Lyth was soon into his stride. He launched Udal for another maximum over mid wicket.
And the only question left to be answered was whether the imperious South African would reach his second ton of the 40-over summer.
With Yorkshire requiring 53, he had reached 70. He needed 30 of the runs required. Lyth’s maximum damaged his chances, and he ultimately failed to get there. But he will not mind too much. Hopefully he will get another chance to score a hundred here on September 18!
Lyth fell for 34 off 37 balls, caught and bowled by former West Indies international Pedro Collins, to leave the score at 166-2 in the 33rd.
Rudolph hit the winning runs off Shah, a lofted straight driven four, off Shah at the end of the 36th over.
Leaders Yorkshire face Gloucestershire at Bristol on Thursday night before travelling to Rotterdam to tackle the Netherlands on Sunday.