RICHARD BLAKEY, who struggled to score a single in India, returned to English grass yesterday and on a perfect spring day fell five short of a century that would have stamped the first day of the inaugural Trans- Pennine Express match.
No, this fixture is not a bunfight for another tacky piece of silver-plate. Regional Railways have offered an attractive, hand-painted Ainsley Vase as the trophy for a Roses match that is now surplus to the four- day Championship schedule but remains first-class. It is as handsome a trophy as cricket possesses, to be housed in a re-built Headingley pavilion, which may be twice as big as the old one but no better looking.
Neil Fairbrother must have decided that a slightly damp surface offered the best possibilities for a basically young attack. If Mike Atherton, at second slip, had been able to hang on to a fleeting chance off Peter Martin when Blakey was 24, the insertion might have been justified.
Lancashire hopes would be raised occasionally. Ashley Metcalfe was scuttled by a brutal break-back; Martyn Moxon fell to Alex Barnett's second ball; Craig White found timing difficult against the slow turn. Simon Kellett, who looks to be the most in-form Yorkshire batsman, hit a perky 62 including a straight six off Barnett.
So it came down to Blakey. He drove the first two balls he received from Barnett through cover for four and, the edge off Martin apart, appeared in total control until he realised he was on the verge of a second Roses century and paid overdue respect to the nineties. Anil Kumble? Who he?
Mike Watkinson was not sure if he was chalk or cheese until the evening when he ended David Byas's vigil deftly and then wrecked Blakey's stumps with the arm ball. If Yorkshire's spinners win a similar response today the Vase will be won before Monday.Reuse content