Hampshire 141 for 5 (Vince 76*) trail Yorkshire 593 for 9 dec (Bairstow 246, Plunkett 126) by 452 runs
No number 11: Liam Plunkett raced to his first Championship hundred © Getty Images
There will be few greater mismatches in Division One of the Championship than the 28 overs at Headingley during which Jonny Bairstow and Liam Plunkett laid waste to an injury-weakened Hampshire attack. At least it is to be fervently hoped there won’t be. Plunkett called it “a huge statement” for Yorkshire in their first Championship game of the season and there is a possibility it might set the tone for both sides all summer.
Bairstow, the most prolific county batsman in the country, and Plunkett, humorously billing himself as a one-time England “net tester”, both registered career-bests as they combined in an unconstrained stand of 227 in 28 overs.
Bairstow’s 246 extended a run that has brought him 1354 Championship runs at 104.15 since the start of last season; Plunkett’s 126 was his third century in first-class cricket and first in the Championship, a joyful affair that lasted only 102 balls. He waltzed from 38 to 70 in nine balls and was only six runs short of hitting a century in a session: not bad for somebody who took guard at 11.52. Bairstow, who also stood at the non-striker’s end in the Cape Town Test when Ben Stokes’ launched an assault on South Africa, once again had the best seat in the house.
“I tried to get the hundred and ran down with two balls to go, swiped and missed it and looked stupid,” Plunkett said. “A Championship hundred is nice.” A year ago, he recalled, he missed the first game because of poor timekeeping. This time he put his form down to a winter of England net sessions.
There was no plan to play with such abandon, even from 348 for 6. “It was just us playing our natural games and the way it evolved,” said Bairstow. When Yorkshire called things off in mid-afternoon at 593 for 9 it was their highest score against Hampshire. This when four of their top six mustered only 20 between them.
James Vince can have endured no more embarrassing moments as Hampshire captain and, with five down by the close, and the deficit a gaping 452 runs, the likelihood is that there will be enough life in this pitch for Yorkshire to force victory. The weather is settled, if cold enough to make fielding little fun.
But Vince, with England T20 recognition, has had his Test ambitions whetted and a Yorkshire attack represented a notable proving ground under the gaze of James Whitaker, the national selector. He played with great discipline – substance along with the style – to reach 76 not out from 142 balls by the close: one decent contest at least. Two wickets for Ryan Sidebottom (normal service resumed in his 12-8-15-2) in Hampshire’s reply left him on 999 career wickets; Plunkett banged in a short one to remove nightwatchman James Tomlinson on the retreat.
The Browbeaten Men of Hampshire were lashed to all parts at more than eight an over yet there was little sense of exhilaration. In fact, as the boundaries mounted, it all felt strangely routine such was Yorkshire’s total domination.
Bairstow has destroyed many better attacks than this in a glorious run of form, one which has turned personal frustration into fulfilment; Plunkett has always hit a heavy ball, and has serious allrounder qualities, and it was curious to recall that he was carded at No. 11 for England in World T20. The Best No. 11 In cricket is not a calling card he cares for.
There are many ways to destroy an attack. Bairstow, hunched and aggressive, has a belligerent air, picking a fight with each bowler in turn, hunting them down and feeding on them voraciously. Plunkett is far more placid, a tall man with a stately beard, flexing an imposing muscular frame as if turning up for a gym session with a towel over his shoulder. There will be no more insouciant hundred all season.
Oddly, one of the shots that stood out for Bairstow was a scampered two into the leg side in response to Will Smith’s seven boundary riders when he was 168, proof of his prodigious run-making appetite as well as a desire to run Hampshire tactically ragged. Plunkett’s grandest moment was arguably four boundaries in an over off Fidel Edwards, who finished with 0 for 145 from 23 overs and was not the first bowler of quality to come to grief by peppering him Plunkett with short balls.
A nonchalant straight six when Plunkett decided to despatch Tom Alsop’s fill-in left-arm slows many a mile was also notable. Bairstow, though, recalled a more dangerous moment when safety sirens were blaring. “He nearly cleaned me up at the non-striker’s end with one shot,” he said. “It was fantastic to be at the other end to see him striking the ball so cleanly.”
Hampshire fielded nine bowlers with only Michael Carberry and the wicketkeeper, Adam Wheater, spared the onslaught. Chris Wood, who left the fray with a knee niggle, and Liam Dawson who was off the field from the outset with an abdominal strain. Tomlinson bowled well at times, but as Bairstow and Plunkett laid waste, the frontline bowlers eventually retreated from the fray. Alsop bowled eight overs on a day when Sean Ervine and Ryan McLaren managed five between them: there is a question for the committee if ever there was one.
Bairstow and Plunkett departed within three balls of each other, Bairstow failing to clear Tomlinson’s leap at long-on to give Alsop his maiden first-class wicket, something that he had presumably not anticipated at the start of the day. Plunkett was bowled around his legs, sweeping at Smith. Hampshire looked shattered.
David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo