Cricket: Byas favours Harden's resolve

Yorkshire 52 and 251; Leicestershire 297 and 7-1 Leics won by 9 wickets
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The Independent Online
YORKSHIRE SUFFERED their second consecutive Championship defeat and showed little to suggest that they can be serious title contenders at the end of the season. Having been dismissed for 52 on the first morning they were always going to struggle, but it is the manner of the performance that should worry the management more than the actual loss itself.

With both Mike Kasprowicz and James Ormond unable to take the field yesterday, with an injured hamstring and side respectively, Yorkshire should have made the champions work harder for their wickets; even more so considering Chris Lewis jogged in off eight paces.

But Vince Wells threw the ball to the first-innings centurion Darren Maddy, and in an unforgettable first over he dismissed Craig White and Richard Blakey. Any hopes that Yorkshire had of saving the game disappeared and it became only a matter of time before the inevitable.

Richard Harden gamely stuck to the task, his vigil of five hours and 10 minutes producing 69 runs and if Yorkshire are to return to winning ways then a few of the other batters will have to learn from his cussed determination.

This was a point the Yorkshire captain David Byas readily acknowledged after the match. "None of the batsmen has really performed for us this season, or at least there has been a lack of consistency," he said. "To get bowled out for 52 is just not good enough. The pitch was good, as Darren Maddy proved, and there are no excuses from me about our performance.

"Of course this defeat knocks us back a bit but I've played this game long enough to know that it only needs us to put a string of results together and for Surrey to lose a couple and we are back in it. We are still in the frame in three one-day tournaments and there is a good attitude in the club and the players are working very hard. But until we get some batters in form we are going to struggle."

The off-season signings of Greg Blewett and Harden from Somerset were supposed to bolster the batting, but this was Harden's first Championship appearance since breaking his hand in the opening fixture.

"I'm not going to blame Greg because, apart from the odd score, none of the batsmen have performed," explained Byas, "and the signing of Harden has been good. We lost him for seven weeks, but he has gone to the wicket three times for us and got a gritty 40-odd and then 69 today."

Without Maddy, Leicestershire would also have struggled for runs but his chanceless 158 will cause the selectors a headache before the next Test. He has scored 379 runs in his last five Championship innings at an average of over 94 and, more importantly, he possesses the strength of character to excel at the highest level.

This victory, Leicestershire's third, raises them to third in the table and has given warning to those above that the champions will not relinquish their title readily, however many players they lose to England.