Yorkshire fall to cock-up and carelessness

Yorkshire 197-9 Hampshire 199-2 (Hampshire win by 8 wickets)
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The Independent Online

The events that happened before this match began explain how it unfolded as it did. They were also both more fun than most things that happened on the pitch, and demonstrated perfectly, as English cricket prepares to enter a new golden age, that a cock-up is never far away.

Yorkshire lost the match by a distance, the victims of an atrocious fixture schedule and their own somewhat careless planning, which reminded us that their own new golden age may be some distance away. That they were beaten by a side containing only four players born in England, and one of those by pure fluke, somehow compounded the various felonies.

The visitors made about 40 runs too few to be competitive after suffering the misfortune of having to bat first. Hampshire accumulated and then accelerated their way to their first Lord's final since 1992 with 10 overs to spare and eight wickets in hand. Sean Ervine, one of five African-born players in the Hampshire team, hit a boisterous hundred at a run a ball ablaze with fierce shots off his legs.

With or without hindsight, it was clear from about last Tuesday that Yorkshire never had a chance. It was then that they had started a four-day County Championship match which did not finish until 5.30pm on Friday.

That was an important stage in their quest for promotion, a Roses match to boot, at Old Trafford. Their coach driver bringing the team to this still more crucial fixture was late and then had to stop on the way, which meant that they did not arrive at their hotel near Southampton until after midnight.

This left barely enough time for a proper night's recuperation before leaving for the ground at 8.45am. Unfortunately, the driver had forgotten to tell them that under safety regulations he is required to have nine hours' rest. This meant that the team could not depart before 9.20am, by which time traffic, as it often is on big match days at the Rose Bowl, was snarled up for two miles outside the ground.

It would have needed a miracle along Red Sea lines to part it. The players abandoned the coach to walk, and indeed their captain Craig White jogged the entire three miles from hotel to ground.

No wonder he called for fixture rescheduling later. The players simply had to join the rest of the fans for whom reaching and leaving this ground, which would be grand if it was complete and there were such luxuries as sufficient toilets, is a nightmare.

The starting time of the match had to be postponed by 15 minutes. Yorkshire prepared as best they could, though their practice had to be perfunctory.

They were already without Ian Harvey, their top-notch overseas all-rounder, as well as Michael Vaughan and Matthew Hoggard, which counterbalanced Hampshire's loss of Shane Warne and Kevin Pietersen. It needed some Yorkshire grit to overcome this. It was never apparent. Suffering from lack of sleep, road rage and the fact that they had to fight hard to get out of Manchester with a draw, their batting was not up to it.

Matthew Wood followed one outside off, Phil Jaques managed a leading edge, Michael Lumb tried to guide one to third man, Anthony McGrath was beaten by a deadeye throw going for a second, Richard Pyrah slashed to the keeper, Ismail Dawood set for a daft run. It was not all recklessness but it was not all aplomb either. Six wickets down before the score was 130, and the rest was damage limitation.

White, as he had in the Roses match, kept them afloat. But he dared not risk too much and his unbeaten 40 took 61 balls. Hampshire could approach their task much as they wanted.

They lost John Crawley playing round a straight delivery but never looked in danger of losing another. Not until Ervine was out to his 99th ball, three after reaching his first hundred for the county. He had marked it by removing his helmet and displaying a splendid head of bleached blond hair and a set of earrings which seem as de rigueur in the Hampshire dressing-room as the crown and rose badge and an overseas birth certificate. Nic Pothas, a sterling cricketer from South Africa, made a solid unbeaten 73.

Of the team who beat Yorkshire so handsomely, three could be said to have learned their cricket within the county. The rest have been either astute or merecenary recruits, depending on your viewpoint. It is not a line-up which seems to have been fashioned with much thought about the future of English cricket.

But they were much too good for a deflated Yorkshire side, whose overseas contingent could not rescue them. Long before setting out on the interminable, though mercifully early trudge out of the ground, the full house was happy as Larry. How they cheered their heroes, as though they were sons of the Test.

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