Weakened Yorkshire still too strong for Steelbacks in One Day Cup opener
Northants Steelbacks got their Royal London One Day Cup off to a disappointing start as they went down by 33 runs to a weakened Yorkshire Vikings on Tuesday.
The home side had been decimated by call-ups to The Hundred, with nine of their squad unavailable as well as coach Ottis Gibson, while former England man Gary Ballance was ruled out with Covid-19.
The Steelbacks for their part have lost just skipper Josh Cobb to The Hundred, but although they were close to full strength they were on the wrong end of the result as their bowlers toiled against a brilliant batting display from the home side at York Cricket Club.
Yorkshire racked up a huge 353 for five in their 46 overs - the match reduced by early rainfall - with openers Will Fraine (a career-best 143 from 107 balls) and Harry Duke (111 from 107) both scoring centuries as they put on 209 for the first wicket, with teenage number three Will Luxton then hammering 83 from 53 balls.
Skipper Will Young did hit 91 from 64 balls as the Steelbacks did at least launch a spirited reply, and there were also half-centuries for Lewis McManus (82 from 62) and Rob Keogh (59 from 43), but John Sadler's side, who were reduced to 36 for two early on, were bowled out for 320 with 10 balls of their innings remaining.
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Fraine displayed power on the leg-side and touch on the off as he hit 12 fours and eight sixes in 107 balls, usurping his Championship 106 against Surrey at Scarborough in 2019.
In posting a second county century in front of a 3,000 strong crowd, the 26-year-old made a Steelbacks attack that erred on a pitch with good pace and bounce pay.
Fraine pulled Tom Taylor over the pavilion and later hoisted Nathan Buck over the hospitality marquee at long-on.
Duke, 20, also faced 107 balls. Shortly after Fraine had reached his century off 85 balls - Yorkshire were 142-0 after 23 overs at this stage - Duke’s fifty came off 62.
Busy Duke scooped with increasing regularity as he moved to his second List A century after 125 versus Leicestershire last year.
When Fraine sliced Saif Zaib’s left-arm spin to backward point, the damage had been done at 209 for one in the 30th. But there was more to follow.
England Under 19s batter Luxton followed Fraine’s dominance, hitting well straight for 10 fours and three sixes in 53 balls as the Steelbacks failed to stem the flow of runs until the final two overs when only 11 were conceded.
Duke reached three figures off 97 balls, and Luxton’s second career fifty came off 35 a delivery later - Yorkshire 299 for one after 40.
Both men were caught in the penultimate over off Buck, the pick of the visiting attack with two for 66 from nine, following a second-wicket partnership of 134 inside 15 overs.
Northants slipped to 36 for two inside six overs of their reply, including debutant seamer Ben Cliff inducing a leading edge from Ricardo Vasconcelos to wide mid-on after only four balls.
Ben Coad also had Emilio Gay caught at slip.
Young and Zaib shared 82 for the third wicket to get the innings back on track, though the road ahead remained a long one.
Young was strong square on both sides of the wicket in 64 balls, adding two straight sixes off the left-arm spin of debutant Harry Sullivan to a dozen boundaries.
But he and Zaib fell in the space of five overs, leaving the Steelbacks at 158 for four in the 24th over. Zaib was stumped off Bess and Young miscued a pull at Coad to mid-on.
The Steelbacks had little option but to plough on. And they did, first through Rob Keogh’s 59.
A feature of this fixture was that runs were largely scored with authenticity rather than agriculture. Keogh was no different.
But he handed Sullivan his maiden wicket by picking out deep cover, and it was the first of three for 17 runs which all but ended the contest as the score fell from 237 for four in the 34th over to 254 for seven in the 37th.
Sullivan also bowled James Sales and Bess had Taylor caught and bowled.
Bess struck again before wicketkeeper McManus threatened a late and remarkable heist with four sixes in 62 balls. But he fell lbw to Tom Loten (315 for nine in the 43rd).