Kirby's prodigal return

Yorkshire 500 Leicestershire 174
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The Independent Online

Considering that for much of the week the wheels looked to be wobbling under Yorkshire, they are making a damn good job of recovering their equilibrium in the County Championship. If they are suffering a crisis of confidence they are concealing it well.

Fresh from being routed by Gloucestershire in Monday's Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final and running the risk of humiliation when 62 for 4 against Bedfordshire on Wednesday, suggestions were that a bright start to the season was fading.

But the one-day losers have comprehensively outplayed Leicestershire to date over the longer haul of the Championship. Weather permitting, a fifth win of the season should be secured, enhancing their position at the top of Division One. Yesterday Yorkshire had added the icing of bowling out the visitors for 174 in 50.4 overs to the cake of their own first- innings total of 500.

Predictably, the damage to Leicestershire's innings was done by a young fast bowler. Surprisingly it was not England's Matthew Hoggard who ripped through the upper order but the 23-year-old Steve Kirby, whose joy was enhanced because his figures of 6 for 46 were inflicted on his former employers.

Some bowlers have a languid grace to go with the throat ball, but not even Kirby's mother could find much beauty in his walk, a head-down strut that would have been the pride and joy of a 1970s skinhead. But if his journey back to the mark is less than athletic there is nothing wrong with what happens in the opposite direction, and for a bowler of slight build he generates surprising pace and hostility.

Little more than a month ago that hostility was reserved for customers who got his goat as a flooring salesman in Leicestershire. But a trial with Yorkshire has brought about an astonishing change in his cricket fortunes, which had appeared to end in failure when he was released from Grace Road in 1999.

In early June Kirby transformed a match against Kent that appeared to be heading for a draw with a spell of 5 for 9 in 29 balls. Yesterday he accounted for three former colleagues, who remember him as a bowler forced to rebuild his action to counter persistent back trouble. With figures of 3 for 12 in an opening burst of six overs, the rehab has been successful.

Ginger-haired and fiery in temperament, Kirby tempted Darren Maddy to edge to the keeper with his fourth ball, trapped Ben Smith leg before three balls later, and uprooted Daniel Marsh's middle stump with a fierce yorker, leaving Leicestershire at 18 for 3. In his second spell he added Iain Sutcliffe to his haul, and in his third Jonathan Dakin and Phil DeFreitas.

Earlier Yorkshire had turned the potential of 299 for 3 overnight into the substance of 500, thanks largely to an exhilarating innings of 104 by Darren Lehmann, accumulated off 133 balls and including 13 fours. Added to the scores by Michael Lumb and Matthew Wood, it marked the first time the county have had three centurians in the same innings in a Championship match since 1975. Neatly, Lumb's father, Richard, was among the trio last time.

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