Cricket: Wood lifts Yorkshire spirits

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The Independent Online
Yorkshire 242-3 v Hampshire

NO PLACE on the cricketing map has witnessed internal squabbles on the scale that has bedevilled Yorkshire during their long years of frustration and under-achievement. But times change. Peace has taken such a stronghold at Headingley these days that the committee invites members to drop in for a friendly chat.

In any case, until Tuesday's Benson & Hedges Cup defeat rather dampened spirits, there was not too much for them to grumble about, although the committee were grateful that one Hampshire player did not embarrass them yesterday.

Peter Hartley's release at the end of last season rankled in the dressing- room as well as with the public, a decision taken on financial grounds depriving Yorkshire's youthful seam attack of experienced back-up.

They might yet regret their decision in this match, from which Darren Gough and Craig White are absent - a back injury forcing White to join Gough on the casualty list.

Keen to advertise his continuing usefulness, the 38-year-old Hartley was successful in only his third over after a wet outfield delayed the start until after lunch yesterday, Anthony McGrath's unhappy season taking another wrong turn as a bottom edge ended his hopes of building an opening partnership with Michael Vaughan.

When Yorkshire then lost their captain, David Byas, who clipped a ball from John Stephenson directly into the hands of Derek Kenway at square leg, it seemed his decision to bat first on an initially cool, overcast afternoon might have been ill-judged.

However, while batting was less than comfortable early on when the ball was deviating from the straight, Hampshire's attack could not exploit the conditions to significant effect and the committee's potential embarrassment was spared by two innings of high quality from Vaughan, unlucky not to be rewarded with a century, and the 21-year-old Matthew Wood.

Wood's unbeaten 103 made quite splendid watching, the compact, well-organised right-hander unleashing some wonderfully timed drives that accounted for the majority of his 16 boundaries and well and truly tamed Hampshire's primary weapon, the West Indian bowler Nixon McLean.

In one particularly purple passage, McLean was punished with four boundaries in the same over as Wood revealed cover driving of textbook quality. McLean went for five runs an over on a day when the overall rate was three.

Vaughan fell 14 short of a three-figure score, getting himself off-balance when he tried to work off-spinner Shaun Udal away and nicking a leg-side catch to the wicketkeeper. Arguably, though, his innings was of equal merit, given that he had battled through the worst of the conditions, surviving a stumping chance on 32 and an appeal for caught behind off a McLean bouncer on 43.

His partnership with Wood added 122 in 41 overs and enabled Yorkshire to close an evening bathed in sunshine in a strong position.