Yorkshire first visited Leicester for a limited-overs match in its Gillette Cup-winning season of 1965 and the two counties have played each other on a regular basis since the introduction of the John Player League in 1969. Paul Dyson looks back at a game which produced the closest result possible just over 20 years ago. The photo of Craig White appears courtesy of Mick Pope.
July 6, 1997 at Leicester: Leicestershire 298-9 in 40 overs (DL Maddy 70, JJ Whitaker 66, VJ Wells 51, AC Morris 4-49), Yorkshire 298-9 in 40 overs (C White 148). Match tied.
This was a match in the AXA Life League, a competition in which most matches were played on Sundays but some games were played under floodlights and those were in mid-week. All of the 18 counties played each other once thus producing a 17-game fair and equal league. Yorkshire came into this match having won five and lost four while Leicestershire had played one game fewer, winning four and losing four. The two sides, therefore, had similar results and a close game could be expected. How close, no one could have predicted.
David Byas won the toss for Yorkshire and asked Leicestershire to bat. Zimbabwean Neil Johnson departed early but a stand of 66 between Vince Wells and Leeds-born Iain Sutcliffe set the pace and when the latter fell to Richard Stemp, Jonathan Dakin pressed the accelerator to such effect that his 27 came from only 11 balls and included four sixes. Wells was then caught-and-bowled by Alex Morris for 51 and the score was 141 for four. There then followed a partnership between skipper James Whitaker, now the England National Selector, and Darren Maddy which provided real impetus to the innings. Whitaker scored 66 from 50 balls but Maddy scored even faster; with a strike-rate of over 150, he made 70 from a mere 45 balls and the stand of 117 ended when a catch by Anthony McGrath gave Morris his third wicket. The same bowler then dismissed Whitaker as the innings subsided somewhat, the last five wickets falling for the addition of only 40 runs. All of Yorkshire’s six bowlers suffered. Morris’s four wickets cost 49 runs in six overs but Stemp was the most expensive, his four overs costing 38. Only Craig White and Peter Hartley went for fewer than six an over. It was a pity, however that Yorkshire conceded no fewer than 40 extras and this included 14 wides and seven no balls. Leicestershire’s total remains its best against Yorkshire in this form of the game.
As the hosts had done, Yorkshire lost an early wicket but there then followed the highest stand of the match as White and Australian Darren Lehmann, who was in his first season with Yorkshire, posted 135 together. Lehmann made 48 of these from 57 balls while White was providing the fireworks. Two more wickets then fell in quick succession but Bradley Parker stayed long enough to add a crucial 67 with White. Both lost their wickets to Wells within ten runs of each other. White had scored 148 from only 114 balls, hitting ten fours and five sixes in an innings which broke Yorkshire’s record for all List A cricket, whatever the number of overs. McGrath took up the initiative and the final over began with Yorkshire needing only five to win and with four wickets in hand. It was bowled by Gordon Parsons’s medium pace and he pitched the ball accurately, took the wicket of Morris with the first ball, three singles were followed by the run-out of McGrath and the run-out of Stemp going for the winning run, the successful boundary fielder being none other than Sutcliffe. Thus the totals – and the number of wickets – finished exactly level. No Leicestershire bowler took more that two wickets and only Parsons conceded fewer than six runs per over. Maddy was the most expensive, his four overs going for exactly ten an over.
The 1997 List A leasgue season produced two more ties – between Essex and Worcestershire as well as Lancashire and Middlesex but none of them were as high-scoring as this one. It was, in fact, the highest-scoring of the 46 tied games in 40-overs history and, unsurprisingly, Yorkshire’s innings was their best in all 40-overs matches. Leicestershire won five more games that season and finished fourth – a rise of eight places on their 1996 position. Yorkshire, though, won only three more matches and ended in tenth place – a drop of seven positions.