David Willey admitted he was “delighted” to contribute significantly to a fabulous Yorkshire four-day victory over Kent at Canterbury.
Willey claimed 5-61 from 16.4 overs in the second innings of the LV= Insurance County Championship win, including three key wickets with the second new ball after tea on day four.
Kent reached tea at 193-6 with 33 overs remaining in the game. A fixture which Yorkshire dominated was a chance of slipping away.
But Willey returned to take the new ball and removed Matt Milnes (78), Darren Stevens and Miguel Cummins to seal a 200-run success with 19.2 overs remaining.
This was only Willey’s 14th Championship appearance for Yorkshire since joining from Northamptonshire in 2016, with injury and England unavailability the primary reasons.
This winter, the all-rounder has been thrust into months of rehabilitation following a stress fracture in his back.
A player with a reputation as a limited overs specialist, Willey was brilliant with the red ball and said: “I’m delighted.
“I said this winter that there’s no better feeling than winning in four-day cricket, over any other format, because it’s hard work.
“From having Covid at the end of last year and then the stress fracture in my back, it’s been a long winter getting myself right. It was great to be out there playing again.
“My hopes for the game were to get through injury free. So to get some wickets and, most importantly, a win was great.”
Willey earned praise from coach Andrew Gale after the White Rose claimed 23 points for a win which follows last week’s opening round draw with Glamorgan.
“I’m pleased for Dave,” he said.
“We’ve always known that he had the potential to be a good red ball cricketer for us. The problem has been that he’s been injured, called up by England or hasn’t had enough overs under his belt to play.
“We talked about it right from the outset in the winter, building him up to be able to handle it.
“I thought Steve Patterson captained him excellently. He didn’t over bowl him and used him at key times.
“Bowling with the new ball there, a left-armer who swings it is a massive asset, as we’ve seen in the past with Ryan Sidebottom.”
The victory sets Yorkshire up ideally ahead of Thursday’s trip to Hove to take on Sussex.
“I thought we showed a great attitude towards the game,” continued Gale.
“Last week we were well below par. We were honest with ourselves, and we didn’t do ourselves justice.
“We wanted to see a reaction this week, and we pretty much won every session of the game. It shows character to turn things around like we have done.
“To win in the final session of the game was a tough slog – hard yakka, as they say.”
There were a host of key contributors to this victory.
Adam Lyth was the standout with 97 and 116 and is the country’s leading run-scorer with 380.
“Outstanding,” said Gale. “Lythy’s started the season exceptionally well, and there’s no better batsman in the country to watch when he’s in this sort of form.
“My challenge to him now is to continue it and don’t take it for granted. I know he won’t because he’s hungry for runs and still has ambitions to play for England.”
Another was all-rounder Jordan Thompson, who claimed three second-innings wickets, including two at the start of day four as Kent slipped to 86-5.
It was Thompson’s first appearance of the season after a calf injury, and Gale had already admitted that injuries elsewhere meant he was forced to bring him back a week earlier than originally planned.
“I was slightly concerned about him beforehand, not having any game time under his belt because of injury,” said the coach. “We sort of took a risk on him, but he looked like he’d never been away.
“He sets high standards of himself. He expects to just come in and turn it on straightaway. That’s what I love about him. He’s a fighter, a real competitor and a guy who you want in the trenches with you.
“I was keen to have him back asap, and he performed brilliantly in the game.”
And in further good news following the victory, Gale added: “Gary Ballance has passed all his concussion tests now. That’s a real positive.
“He will play in the second team at Bristol tomorrow (Monday). If he pulls through a couple of days of that, he will be available for selection at Sussex.”