David Willey, Duanne Olivier ponder roads less travelled as Yorkshire draw with Hampshire

Yorkshire181 (Edwards 5-49, Fuller 3-51) and 332 for 5 dec (Ballance 100, Kohler-Cadmore 69, Tattersall 50) drew with Hampshire 235 (Fuller 54*, Northeast 50) and 158 for 5 (Weatherley 66, Rossouw 54*)

It was easy to give one’s attention solely to the fluxions of this fine match today. Many Yorkshire spectators at Headingley did so and were rewarded for their quiet devotion by their favourites’ determined attempt to win a game hitherto cursed by rain. After challenging Hampshire to score 279 runs in 48 overs, Steve Patterson’s bowlers took three early wickets before tea and came in to a warm ovation at the Kirkstall Lane End.

The Yorkshire bowlers’ efforts were then frustrated by a fine fourth-wicket stand between Joe Weatherley and Rilee Rossouw which was worth 102 runs and used up 23 overs. Weatherley was eventually dismissed for 66 by Dom Bess, who also bowled Ian Holland for 14 and those late successes justified Steve Patterson’s decision to keep Hampshire’s batsmen under his yoke until only two overs remained. But a little of the zip had gone out of Yorkshire’s effort by then and a draw was a fair result after a game to which Hampshire had contributed a great deal.

But it was also permissible, as we watched the day unfold, to have another stage in one’s mind and the roads two cricketers had not travelled.

For example at 1.53 there was the rather poignant sight of David Willey going out to bat. Around 198 miles away at The Oval England were 283 for 6 and one pondered the thoughts going through the mind of an all-rounder who had hoped to be playing World Cup cricket on this day. His thoughts were probably very professional; sportsmen must apply themselves to the task at hand. All the same, while some paths are less travelled by choice, others are suddenly barred. In the event Willey was soon crashing Fidel Edwards through the covers and his brisk 26 not out helped Yorkshire post 322 for 5 declared, thereby asking Hampshire to score at 5.8 runs per over, a gauntlet they scorned.

And Duanne Olivier also played a part in this game’s final narratives. As his South African countrymen were going out to bat at The Oval, Olivier was accepting a return catch from Oli Soames whose top-edged pull gave Yorkshire’s cricketers their first hint that they might accomplish something remarkable. Late in February Olivier decided to throw in his lot with English cricket and signed a contract at Headingley. Had he not done so, he, too, might have been at The Oval.

Instead he was in Leeds and a few moments later was celebrating with his colleagues after Ajinkya Rahane attempted a rather flowery drive to a delivery slanting in to him from Ben Coad and merely inside-edged the ball onto his middle stump. Like Soames, he departed for nought and the visitors were 7 for 2. As if to reward Patterson’s cricketers, the sun came out at Headingley and there was a further prize for them just before tea when Sam Northeast clipped Coad low to Willey at short midwicket.

The cricket after tea became a gentle adagio as Rossouw and Weatherley exhibited technical skill and sound temperaments to blunt Yorkshire’s attack. Eventually, even the true believers at the Kirkstall Lane End became reconciled to the draw. Then Bess had Weatherley caught at short midwicket by Willey and they believed again, though only for a few overs. Thoughts drifted back to the cricket they had seen and the possibility that had not rain intervened on all four days of this game, the match would have been decided by Wednesday evening. And perhaps they also thought about Gary Ballance.

Neither gentle shower nor savage tempest is sufficient to curb Ballance at the moment. The former Yorkshire skipper’s hunger for runs appears almost unlimited and yesterday he brought up his fourth century in six innings this season when he eased Mason Crane through the covers for a couple of runs. Ballance had already levied leg-side boundaries off Crane and Holland but was dismissed for exactly 100 six balls after reaching three figures when a full length ball from Crane hit him low on the pad and Rob Bailey sent him on his way

Nevertheless, Ballance has now scored 538 runs in the 2019 Championship at an average of 89.66. Moreover, it is believed he is the first Yorkshire cricketer to score centuries in five successive matches. This, in a county that has produced Louis Hall, Percy Holmes, Herbert Sutcliffe, Len Hutton, Geoffrey Boycott. The England selectors are currently preoccupied with other matters, but having knocked politely on their door, Ballance is now thumping very loudly upon it. A couple more centuries over the next fortnight would lift the thing off its hinges and what the selectors do then is up to them.

What they did to David Willey, no doubt with appropriate compassion, was clear this evening. Cricket is a beautiful but very tough game and Willey would have it no other way. Just after half-past five England completed their victory at The Oval. They did so amid the cheers of thousands and the salutes of sharp-suited pundits. Just over half an hour later, Willey walked off the field at Headingley after another day as a professional cricketer.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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