Yorkshire 376 (Brook 101, Lyth 52) and 213 for 4 (Malan 65, Brook 56*) beat Gloucestershire 227 (Harris 136, Fisher 4-19) and 359 (Bracey 177, Patterson 4-43) by six wickets
In an awkward chase, the sight of Malan at the crease conveys the impression that the grown-ups are in charge, and he fashioned the task with the professional air of a man who had done it countless times in the past, finally seeing off Gloucestershire’s challenge after four days of hard-fought cricket which showed the Championship in a favourable light.
When Yorkshire enticed Malan from Middlesex in time for the 2020 season, they imagined they had made a perfect signing, a high-class player who possessed international pedigree, but whose England career – for all his ambition – might well be over. Best-laid plans and all that. Days later, Malan hit the fastest T20 hundred in England’s history, won an IPL contract with Punjab Kings and then regained his Test place.
Two years later, with Malan now 34, Yorkshire will hope once again that he can be the ever-present, dominant figure in their middle order, not that it would be wise to tell him as much. He got on with the job unfussily and, by the time he was fourth out, slog sweeping to deep midwicket, Yorkshire’s confidence that they could chase down another 65 in 23 overs was cemented in.
“Winning in the way we did is fantastic, especially under new leadership and new direction,” Malan said. “The pitch became a little bit dead, but because the boundaries were quite short on one side and there was a wind, we were able to target their quicker bowlers, which we did quite well. The original plan was to just bat and see where we were with 20 overs to go, but I managed to find a bit of momentum and just went with it. It’s up to us senior professionals to bring the younger ones along. We’ve seen that with Harry Brook in this game. He is learning how to play certain situations and is fast becoming a senior player himself.”
Gloucestershire hung in there determinedly until the final session – showing the same resolve as in their nail-biting draw against Northants last week. But gnawing away at their self-belief would be the knowledge that counties like to chase at Bristol, where the pitches can encourage bowlers on the opening day but which become overly placid, lacking pace and turn, in the later stages of the match. Lancashire’s Kyle Jarvis and Imran Tahir, for Derbyshire, are rare examples of bowlers who has pulled off a match-winning fourth-innings display on this ground in the past decade.
Gloucestershire had little leeway if they were to avoid defeat, but their challenge wilted markedly after tea. They will find optimism, however, as far as their bowling attack is concerned, in the six wickets in the match for Ajeet Singh Dale, who looked lively throughout.
Yorkshire’s chase was cagey until tea, 53 on the card for the loss of Adam Lyth and the debutant, James Wharton, and only two boundaries managed in 23 overs. Lyth fell at fine leg, hooking Matt Taylor from well outside off stump when a cut would have been a better option. Wharton, who might have fallen to Taylor from the first three balls he faced, was bowled through the gate by Singh Dale.
A wearing fourth-day pitch, with turn for Gohar, would have made Yorkshire’s chase more challenging, and his immediate introduction into the attack when Malan came to the crease appeared to be an intended match-up, but there was no purchase to be had. Malan soon had the upper hand. George Hill, a patient soul, was also showing signs of opening up when he overbalanced and clipped a half-volley from Singh Dale to midwicket.
Gohar exhaled in disbelief when Malan lobbed one over his head, but it was to be his last scoring shot. The next ball, he slog-swept Gohar to the longest boundary where Ryan Higgins, on the line and at full stretch, calmly knocked the ball up to complete the catch at the second attempt.
What does this mammoth effort say about Bracey’s suitability for England? There is no doubt that he is in form, as hundreds in the first two matches of the season testify. He is one of the most disciplined top-order batters around and such attributes among top-level players are in short supply.
As he tired, Rauf caused him more trouble than most. Just before the physios came on with his third helmet of the match, he survived a vociferous appeal for a catch at the wicket – the ball brushing his trouser pocket – and almost chipped up a catch down the leg-side off his hip, the ball falling just short of a scrambling wicketkeeper. Two emphatic pulled sixes against Rauf in a calculated final assault will have been confidence-restoring.
Rauf gives Yorkshire’s attack an extra dimension. He has scant first-class experience, but he maintained an impressive pace and, at the very least, could mop up a few tails in quick succession before his stint comes to an end.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps