Yorkshire close in on quarter-finals after Lancashire chase goes down to wire
But when the commotion had died down, it was Brook whose burgeoning talent remained in the mind. He cuts a slight, somewhat self-effacing figure in the Championship. In T20, this season at least, he transforms from Clark Kent to Superman.
Yorkshire’s top six, thanks to England calls and injuries, was a hotchpotch of young pros, loan signings and, in the case of Gary Ballance, a batter who no longer seems attuned to the task in hand, but Brook shouldered the responsibility without a care in the world. Quite how he survived Matt Parkinson’s lbw appeal, on 47, however, when he missed a switch hit, is anyone’s guess.
Lyth’s contribution ended, on 52, when he sliced the unaccustomed offspin of Luke Wells (13 balls bowled in his T20 career at start of play) to the cover boundary. When Wells was at Sussex, if memory serves, he was not the mildly threatening, shaven-headed figure he is now, an image he has presumably developed especially for the north so he dare go out at night. As Lyth walked off, the Sky TV cameras caught a young Yorkshire spectator, 12 at the most, shaking his head in time-honoured, dispirited fashion at the error he had just witnessed. They sure train them early in these parts.
Ballance’s thoughts all season have appeared to be elsewhere. Parkinson turned one sharply behind his legs to have him stumped by miles. With only 32 balls remaining, Yorkshire were 116 for 4, but Brook cut loose to add another 84 with George Hill.
He had got off the mark with a dab to third man that was pure Joe Root, a shot that it would be no surprise to discover that he had learned off him. Such subtleties gave way to a more venomous approach in the closing overs as he danced down the pitch to loft Parkinson for successive sixes over long-on. Saqib Mahmood had been fast and threatening early on, but he was tamed, too, with a flat six over long-off and a deft scoop to third man. This is a batter with a full array of shots.
Lancashire needed a special start, but instead lost three for 34 in 5.3 overs. Finn Allen, so impressive in the Super Smash, has had a moderate season and when he was bowled by Lyth, overbalancing to the off side in his enthusiasm for a pull shot, it was not the first time this tournament that he had made such an error. Alex Davies struck Matthew Waite’s half-volley loosener for six then got out seeking a repeat against the next ball. Dane Vilas was Ferguson’s first victim, caught at the wicket.
Dom Bess ended Keaton Jennings’ laboured resistance in a solid four-over spell in mid-innings but Rob Jones and Steven Croft kept Lancashire in touch and 19 off an over from Matt Fisher left them needing 41 from three.
It all boiled down to the last over but Ferguson’ slower ball missed the cut strip, bounced off the wicketkeeper’s body and Lancashire ran two byes. The young lad who had shaken his head morbidly at Lyth’s dismissal was presumably by now mentally penning a letter of complaint to the chief executive.
The scoreboard clicked here and there as the scorers tried to work out the rules. A Lancashire 12th man, running on with a drink, was summarily banished from the outfield. But with 10 needed from three, Ferguson, who had bowled superbly throughout, brooked no argument. Wells was caught at long-off as Lyth, running backwards, clutched the ball to his chest with his forearms; Luke Wood fell prey to a yorker; and Tom Hartley, with the cause hopeless, pumped one down the ground into the hands of Lyth – a highly committed, stand-in captain enjoying an impressive all-round night.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps