Ballance enlivens dull affair to point Yorkshire towards victory
IF the 50-over format received a shot in the arm at the recent World Cup, it was not in evidence at Derby last night.
In fact, it would be difficult to conceive of a greater contrast between the event in Australia and New Zealand and the mood at The 3aaa County Ground, where the weather was poor, the pitch sluggish, and the occasion completely devoid of atmosphere.
Throw in the odd loud-mouthed drunk who invariably gatecrashes such evenings and the script, in fact, was sadly predictable.
It was 50-over cricket, Jim, but not as we know it in the brave new world.
Nights like this are never going to equip English players to thrive at the highest level, but one who has at least experienced that level shone for Yorkshire in a seven-run win.
Gary Ballance, who has played 16 one-day internationals, the last of them against Sri Lanka at Wellington at the World Cup in March, top-scored with 69 as Yorkshire made 239-6 in a game reduced by pre-match rain to 42-overs-a-side before Derbyshire were left a revised target of 197 to win from 29 overs following a mid-innings shower, the hosts falling short in a tight finish the occasion did not deserve.
It was a controlled innings by Ballance, full of trademark dabs, drives and nurdles. It was also a confidence-boosting one after he was dropped for tomorrow’s third Ashes Test after a run of low scores.
Ballance, who played for Derbyshire before joining Yorkshire in 2008, feels somewhat unfortunate to have lost his England place.
It was only three months ago, after all, that the 25-year-old became the third-fastest England player to 1,000 Test runs behind Herbert Sutcliffe and Len Hutton.
No one could deny, however, that his replacement, Jonny Bairstow, deserves his chance, and Ballance can only do what Bairstow has done – try to win back his place through weight of runs.
This was a step in the right direction, albeit a routine workout for a high-class cricketer.
Ballance came to the crease with Yorkshire 60-2 in the 15th over following the departure of Glenn Maxwell.
The Australian had looked in good touch, off-driving Shiv Thakor for six on his way to 14, before lofting Alex Hughes to deep mid-wicket.
Maxwell’s dismissal followed that of Alex Lees in the 10th over, the left-hander mis-timing a pull off Thakor to mid-on.
Yorkshire slipped to 91-3 at the halfway stage when Andrew Gale went lbw trying to whip Mark Footitt through mid-wicket.
Run-scoring was never simple; Yorkshire managed only 11 fours and three sixes, while they failed to score from 113 of the 252 deliveries they faced.
But they were boosted by a fourth-wicket stand between Ballance and Jack Leaning that realised 83 in 14 overs.
Neither was particularly expansive, but they ensured their side had a total to defend.
Leaning played well for 42 before he was fourth out at 174 in the 35th over, top-edging a pull off Footitt to deep fine-leg.
Ballance went to his half-century from 56 balls and celebrated by launching Alex Hughes for six over long-on.
But after Tim Bresnan was brilliantly held by a diving Alex Hughes at long-on off Thakor, Ballance fell in the 40th over when he slog-swept Ben Cotton to wicketkeeper Tom Poynton.
Yorkshire scored 84 from the last 10 overs, a timely injection, with Liam Plunkett finishing unbeaten on 17.
Footitt was the most successful bowler with 2-45, although he gave Yorkshire an extra over in wides and no balls.
Having had a no-result in their opening Royal London game against Gloucestershire at Scarborough the previous day, Yorkshire had made one change to the side as Jack Brooks replaced Matthew Fisher, the 17-year-old pace bowler.
With seven Royal London games in the space of 11 days, continuing with tomorrow’s match against Surrey at the Oval, it is unrealistic to expect everyone to play every fixture, and Yorkshire plan to rotate their line-up.
Brooks it was who struck the first blow in the Derbyshire reply when Wes Durston pulled to mid-wicket in the third over, Ballance clinging on at the third attempt.
Wayne Madsen was bowled trying to scoop Steve Patterson; Billy Godleman charged Plunkett and was caught behind for 45 from 38 balls, and Thakor was run-out to leave Derbyshire 85-4 in the 15th over.
A stand of 47 in six overs between Hamish Rutherford and Alex Hughes put the chase back on track before Hughes was brilliantly pouched by Maxwell at point, one-handed diving to his left off Patterson.
Bresnan had Chesney Hughes caught behind; Rutherford lofted Patterson to Maxwell at long-on for 56; and Brooks finished things with two wickets in the final over.
It always felt as though Yorkshire were ahead, and so it proved.
DISPLAY OF THE DAY
GARY BALLANCE hit 69 from 70 balls with two fours and a six.