WITH a surname like Whiteley it was perhaps no surprise that Worcestershire’s Ross Whiteley proved adept at the numbers game at Headingley last night.
The Sheffield-born 26-year-old served up the following figures: 91 not out from 35 balls with 11 sixes and two fours.
It helped Worcestershire to 191-6 from their 20 overs and all-but mathematically ended Yorkshire’s hopes of reaching the quarter-finals as they scored just 117 in reply.
Only Graham Napier, Chris Gayle and Aaron Finch have hit more sixes in a T20 game in England, and Whiteley lost nothing in comparison with that esteemed trio in terms of the clean way that he struck the ball.
The Countdown to Whiteley’s arrival, if you’ll forgive the indulgence, was the sedate progress by the visiting team to 63 by the time their fourth wicket fell after 9.4 overs and Whiteley strode out into the evening sunshine.
The powerful left-hander immediately sensed the scoring rate was not good enough on a true pitch, and he lofted Karl Carver, the 19-year-old left-arm spinner making his T20 debut, for six into the West Stand, a spectator catching the ball amid vacuous cheers.
That stroke single-handedly spoiled Carver’s figures of 0-30 from four overs, the teenager one of the few plus points for Yorkshire on a wretched night. This defeat was their seventh in 12 fixtures.
And yet the frustration for them was that they started the match so well.
Richard Oliver slapped Liam Plunkett to mid-wicket in the third over; Tom Kohler-Cadmore holed out on the straight boundary off Matthew Fisher; Colin Munro was caught behind off Will Rhodes, who claimed another wicket when Brett D’Oliveira found deep fine-leg.
At that stage, Yorkshire had got their lines and lengths right, Andrew Gale had rung the bowling changes well, and Worcestershire had struggled to find the boundary. Finding the boundary, however, was not a problem that Whiteley encountered.
Rhodes also saw his figures wounded by Whiteley, who lofted him for a six over fine-leg and another over mid-wicket.
A delivery from Glenn Maxwell was deposited into the crowd over long-on, and after Worcestershire lost their fifth wicket on 124 in the 16th over, captain Daryl Mitchell bowled for 49 as he swung hard at Plunkett, Whiteley wielded his bat like a man possessed.
Ryan Gibson, the 19-year-old pace bowler also making his T20 debut, was introduced in the 17th over and he saw it disappear for as many runs, Whiteley hoisting him over square-leg and then over fine-leg.
It took Whiteley to his half-century from 24 balls with six sixes before Worcestershire then went to 152-6 in the 19th over, Ben Cox well caught by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow running back off a top-edged pull off Plunkett.
There was still time for five more sixes from Whiteley’s willow. Plunkett was hammered for three in four balls – one over long-off and two over long-on – and Fisher for two in the final over: the first over mid-wicket and the second over long-on.
Incredibly, Worcestershire hit 103 runs in the last seven overs. Some of the bowling figures should have carried a public health warning.
Alex Lees gave the home crowd hope when he hit two sixes in the opening over of the Yorkshire reply, Jack Shantry struck over long-on and then over long-off.
But Lees was caught sweeping at fine leg off the final delivery of the third over, bowled by the wily off-spinner Saeed Ajmal, and Rhodes – promoted to No 3 – was run-out after a mix-up with Gale. Yorkshire’s chase was emphatically crushed by the loss of three wickets in five deliveries with the score on 60.
Bairstow skied Mitchell to deep mid-wicket, Maxwell – who is staying with Yorkshire after they yesterday secured his release from the Australia A tour of India – fell first ball when he gave catching practice to long-off off D’Oliveira, who struck again when Gale was caught at third-man reverse-sweeping.
When Tim Bresnan gave leg-spinner D’Oliveira a third wicket by picking out deep mid-wicket, Yorkshire were 69-6 in the 11th over. Jack Leaning tried his best with a brisk 27, including two sixes off D’Oliveira that helped turn figures of 3-9 from three overs into 3-29 from four, but it was to no avail.
When Leaning was run-out at the bowler’s end by Shantry in the 15th over, after Gibson drove down the ground, it rather summed up Yorkshire’s night.
Plunkett perished at long-off, Carver was caught behind and Gibson taken at mid-wicket to round off the innings.
The evening ended with a cacophony of fireworks on the outfield that had a rather tragic air about them, as though someone had let off a flurry of rockets after somebody’s funeral.