Accolades don’t come much higher for Yorkshire batsmen than to be spoken of in the same breath as Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe, which is why Adam Lyth and Alex Lees will feel particularly proud of what they achieved in the course of around 26 hours before Lees put the ball in the hands of mid-off to be out for 138 at 2.15pm on Monday.
The catch held by Maurice Chambers ended a partnership of 375 between the two left-handers that had begun at 12.17pm on Sunday. Only two pairs of Yorkshire batsmen have scored more together in first-class history, for any wicket, although in each case it was for the first. Holmes and Sutcliffe head the list with their 555 against Essex at Leyton in 1932 – a world record until 1977. In the late 19th century, Jack Brown and John Tunnicliffe put on 554 against Derbyshire at Chesterfield and 378 against Sussex at Bramall Lane in Sheffield. Lees and Lyth installed themselves at fourth in the list.
Lees, still only 21, played a more prosaic innings than that of his partner, who survived for another 40 minutes before the persevering Andrew Hall finally drew him into nibbling at one outside off stump to be caught behind. Lyth, 26, made 230, his second double-hundred, and was 18 runs short of equalling his career-best 248 not out against Leicestershire in 2012.
He is a lovely player to watch, with timing and touch to match any English batsman in the Championship on his day, and there were 31 fours and a six, lofted down the ground off Matthew Spriegel, in this epic. With 784 runs from 11 first-class innings this season he is the leading runscorer in the country. Had he been able to harness his talent to consistency he would have played for England by now. Yet he has had a tendency to frustrate by succumbing to careless dismissals. To keep this summer’s numbers in perspective, he made 730 runs in 27 innings in last season’s Championship.
The partnership, the biggest in this season’s Championship, also set a record for the highest opening partnership against Northamptonshire and the highest for any wicket bar one, the 385 added by Ted Bowley and Maurice Tate of Sussex for the second wicket at Hove in 1921.
Half-centuries from Aaron Finch and Jack Leaning swelled the Yorkshire total to 546 for 3, bringing a declaration that left the home side chasing 432 to win. The pitch is pretty flat but against an attack somewhat more potent than their own Northamptonshire lost their first three wickets for 32.