Sussex 302 & 417-2dec Warwickshire 449 (Match Drawn): Yardy grinds past Ranji's home record
England A hopeful leaves poor winter in the past
Sunday 23 April 2006
Unless his dreams were particularly wild, it is unlikely that Michael Yardy ever imagined that he might be spoken of in the same breath as K S Ranjitsinhji. Throughout yesterday afternoon it never stopped happening.
Would Yardy, the yeoman batsman bent on making the absolute most of limited ability, beat a record set 105 years ago by Ranji, one of the most exotic talents the game has known? Strictly speaking, the comparison is unfair, in more ways than one, since the landmark in question was for the Sussex third wicket.
Ranji set the record with Ernest Killick at Hove in 1901 when they put on 298 against Lancashire at Hove. Killick played 450 matches for Sussex, but might have been the Yardy of his day. Yardy was accompanied by Murray Goodwin as they first threatened, which went on for a long time due to sedate progress, and then, in the 115th over of the innings, overtook the most enduring of the county's wicket partnership records.
It is always slightly sad to see a name like Ranji's expunged from the records, which is not to disparage Yardy or Goodwin. Their diligent endeavours over seven-and-a-half hours on a pitch that had steadfastly refused to be browbeaten from its winter slumbers ensured that Sussex began the season with a draw.
But if it was resolute it was necessarily tortuous. Sussex could not afford to concede ground so early to one of the counties likely to be competing with them for the title. On and on they batted. And on. Their first objective was to batten down the hatches, which they did so effectively that they never truly became unbattened even when the match was well beyond having been salvaged.
In the morning they added only 65, of which Yardy's share was 15 from 99 balls. This did not evoke many comparisons with Ranji. Goodwin went on to make his fourth double hundred for Sussex and the pair batted throughout the whole of the final day. In all their partnership was worth 385, the second highest for any wicket for Sussex, and lasted 120.4 overs.
In parts it felt as though it had been going on since 1901. The most entertaining part of a day, which ended when Sussex declared at 417 for 2 with 10 minutes left, was nothing to do with the batting but with Michael Powell's wonderful impression of Gladstone Small's bowling.
Yardy's hundred, to add to the five he made in 2005, was probably not enough to save his position in the England A team which will be announced this week. He was probably worth his call-up in the winter after his good returns in the preceding season, but he had a miserable time in the West Indies.
In eight innings spanning two A Test matches and four one-dayers he made 66 runs, including three ducks. Yardy blamed both the lack of decent practice and the way he went about practising, but it is also possible that a player of his range may not be quite good enough at the higher level.
As much as it was difficult to imagine the worthy Yardy as an international batsman while he ground his way onwards to 159 not out from 398 balls, it was not as difficult as imagining Hove as an international venue. This thought sprang to mind - and plenty more did as the pair went dully, inexorably on - because of Cardiff's elevation to Test ground status. In the 1999 World Cup, for reasons never satisfactorily explained, Hove was the venue for the match between India and South Africa. It was a ridiculously big match for the ground, which could not cope with the numbers who turned up, either inside or outside. Of course, time has moved on and Sophia Gardens will doubtless manage admirably for England v Australia, with hopefully nobody peeping over fences from the road.
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