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County Championship 2021 – Dom Bess the architect of unlikely Yorkshire win over Sussex | Cricket

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Dom Bess took four second-innings wickets to help seal victory for Yorkshire © Getty Images


Yorkshire 558 (Malan 199, Ballance 77, Duke 54, Atkins 5-98) beat Sussex 313 (Brown 127, Ibrahim 55) and 215 (Orr 67, Thomason 52, Bess 4-51, Willey 3-26) by an innings and 30 runs

Another Sunday evening and another group of players lounge on the outfield of a Test Match ground drinking beer and chatting. But this time the players are wearing the white rose on their caps and their mood is utterly transformed from the gloom that cloaked them just a week ago.

Among them is Dom Bess, who was last man out in the Roses Match, but this glorious Sunday at Headingley was the architect of a victory whose effects on Yorkshire’s season will not yet be fully understood until perhaps the end of September when we assess pivotal points in what is already a summer of wonders. For the moment, the glory and the drama of this day at Leeds must suffice. It will be enough.

When Yorkshire won the County Championship in 2014 and 2015 they did so because they possessed a quite outstanding team. But they also found ways to win games, to prise victories from unpromising situations even when they were not playing particularly well. On May 2 there was one such triumph here when Northamptonshire were beaten by one run; now Steve Patterson and his players have another to go with that; and their supporters, who were watching their first cricket for nearly 21 months, will begin to wonder if this could also be a summer in which they will hear songs of triumph.

Some flesh on these bones, I think, and some acknowledgement of Sussex’s part in what was a wonderful game. Let us rewind just a couple of hours or so: Ben Brown‘s side are 180 for 4 and on course to achieve the draw some would argue their resilience merits. There are 22 overs left in the match. Bess is bowling from the Emerald Stand End but the ball is not deviating much and the memory of Tom Haines’ dismissal, caught off one that turned and bounced early in the morning is no more than a shadow on the day’s tapestry.

Then Aaron Thomason, who has withstood the Yorkshire attack for 245 minutes in this innings, and nearly eight hours in the match, attempts to drive a ball he has no reason on earth to play. A catch is edged to the safe hands of Adam Lyth at slip and out troops Danial Ibrahim, debutant, history-maker, headline-grabber, half-centurion, fine cricketer….and just 16 years old. Three balls later Ibrahim is walking back to the pavilion having made a duck. One wonders what he will make of his four days in Leeds. Good luck, lad.

But they were dismissals that changed this game utterly. It was as if ten thousand volts had suddenly passed through the old ground. Yorkshire’s fielders, who had been so lethargic and seemingly resigned to the draw, now stalked between overs like wild animals after small prey. David Willey steamed in from the Kirkstall Lane End and three overs later he more or less repeated Bess’s achievement. Jack Carson fended the left-arm seamer to Jordan Thompson at leg gully and Stuart Meaker stabbed his second ball to Harry Brook at short leg. The Sussex innings was now a shambles on 187 for 8 and no one was thinking of an early handshake.

Yorkshire’s fielders now crowded round Henry Crocombe as victory became probable. Two short legs and a leg slip clearly revealed Willey’s line of attack but knowing something is going to happen is not the same as dealing with it when it does. Crocombe’s desperate attempt to avoid a magnificent bouncer merely gloved a catch to wicketkeeper Harry Duke.




David Willey chimed in with three wickets © Getty Images


There were 16.2 overs to be bowled when Brown was joined by Jamie Atkins, who until just over a month ago also had no idea what it was like to play first-class cricket. Sussex had lost five wickets for seven runs in 32 balls but Atkins held out with Brown and batting became negotiable, easier if never easy. Sussex supporters following the game on the live stream may have begun to wonder if an improbable draw can be clawed from what once seemed inevitable defeat yet had seemed even earlier a probable stalemate.

Bess, whose permanently grubby flannels and permanently tousled mien make him looks like one of The Bash Street Kids out of The Beano, had taken four wickets and Willey three. Surely their work was done. But then Brown glanced one thin down the leg side, Bess dived to his right from leg slip but spilled the catch and damaged a finger on his bowling hand. Gradually a Yorkshire victory that had appeared out of a high-clouded Headingley sky seemed to be slipping away.

There were six overs to be bowled when Patterson, who also took the final wicket in the one-run victory over Northamptonshire in May, took the ball and came in to bowl from the Emerald Stand End. He straightened his fourth ball to Brown who groped at it and there was a thin snick. Duke caught the ball and Patterson appealed for a caught behind, not realising that the noise was the ball clipping the off stump. The Yorkshire captain, normally the most phlegmatic of chaps, a man of sensible eating and wise investments, clenched his fists and roared his triumph. There was uproar on the field and even in the stands. Two hours later chants of “Yawksher, Yawksher, Yawksher” could be heard coming from The Headingley Taps where many pints toasted the win.

By the evening it felt as if we had watched two days’ cricket. In the first Ali Orr, the ninth Sussex cricketer to be given his first-class debut in 13 matches and less than a year, had made a polished 67 before playing over the top of a Bess yorker in mid-afternoon. On that same first day Travis Head had driven rather wildly at Thompson and nicked a catch to Duke. That distant day had been calm and it had sketched the clearest of narratives towards civilised handshakes and maybe the odd comment about an unresponsive pitch. Then Bess dismissed Thomason and a second day had begun: frantic, unscripted, triumphant, despondent.

And they are singing still in the pubs around Headingley…

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications


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