HISTORY was made at Headingley last night when the ground staged its first full match beneath the new floodlights.
The lights had been used briefly in County Championship games this season to ward off the threat of bad light, but this was the first time they had been seen in all their finery against the night sky.
Headingley might not be to everyone’s taste – Rob Mills, the former Yorkshire Post cricket correspondent, memorably described the ground as looking like “it has been put together by a hyperactive seven-year-old with a few Lego bricks left over” – but the floodlights are clearly a classy addition.
Installed at a cost of £1.2m to help guarantee international cricket at Leeds, they also allow Yorkshire to start T20 matches at the later time of 7pm, thus making it easier for people to get to the ground after work.
A crowd of 5,953 congregated on a muggy night for the opening match in this year’s competition, and they saw a luminous display by Yorkshire and, in particular, their 17-year-old pace bowler Matthew Fisher on his T20 debut.
After Derbyshire were put into bat beneath cloudy skies, they initially made a bright start as they reached 66-1 in the ninth over, with the South African batsman Hashim Amla in ominous order.
But Fisher – unavailable for County Championship cricket at present due to taking his exams – helped send them crashing to a final total of 128 all-out with 10 balls of their allotted overs remaining.
His return of 5-22 from 3.2 overs was Yorkshire’s third-best T20 return behind Rich Pyrah’s 5-16 against Durham at Scarborough in 2011 and Jack Brooks’s 5-21 against Leicestershire at Leeds two years ago.
It was also just the third five-wicket haul for Yorkshire in the format, and it hinted at a cricketer of considerable promise.
Tim Bresnan, who knows a thing or two about pace bowling, reckons the York-born Fisher is a star-in-the-making, and one did not have to look high above the floodlights last night to see the twinkle of a blossoming star.
After Fisher’s fireworks, Yorkshire cruised to their target with seven wickets and 20 balls to spare.
Andrew Gale led the way with 41 from 36 balls, Jonny Bairstow scoring an unbeaten 40 from 35 deliveries.
After England decided that none of the 12 players chosen for next week’s first Test against New Zealand could play in the opening round of the competition, Yorkshire were deprived of batsmen Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Adam Lyth six days before the Test even started.
It was yet another dubious decision by the England and Wales Cricket Board, who therefore devalued opening night as surely as if tickets for the game had been given away free.
Yorkshire recalled pace bowler Liam Plunkett after he had been dropped for the County Championship match against Hampshire for missing a training session and an official club photocall. It was a transgression that denied him the chance to press his own claims for a place in the Test squad.
Having had only one day to prepare for the tournament, emphasising the senseless nature of the schedule, Yorkshire began with suitable ring-rust.
Brooks started proceedings with an offside wide from the Kirkstall Lane end and conceded 12 runs from the opening over.
Bresnan has been bowling as well as ever lately, though, and he leaked only three runs from his opening two overs from the Rugby Stand end, either side of an over from Plunkett that went for 13.
In Bresnan’s second over, the fourth of the innings, Derbyshire lost their first wicket when Wes Durston carved to third man, Adil Rashid watching into his hands a comfortable catch.
Bresnan’s figures were spoilt somewhat by a third over that went for 15, including a hooked six by Chesney Hughes, but Derbyshire collapsed dramatically after their confident start.
From 66-1 in the ninth over, they plunged to 81-6 by the 13th, Fisher and Pyrah doing most of the damage.
It was Fisher who started the rot, striking with his second ball when Hughes drove meekly to Pyrah at point.
In the next over, Amla hit Pyrah to Gale at cover before Fisher trapped Shiv Thakor lbw.
Derbyshire slid to 78-5 when Billy Godleman was caught-and-bowled by Pyrah, and they were in disarray when Rashid had Scott Elstone caught at cover by Pyrah from another poor shot.
Pyrah finished with 2-13 from four overs as Derbyshire lost 5-13 in 25 balls.
Tom Poynton hit a useful 27, including a six over long-on off Rashid, but wickets fell again as Derbyshire dominoed from 108-6.
Alex Hughes was caught-and-bowled by Fisher, who captured his fourth wicket when he had Poynton caught behind.
David Wainwright, once of Yorkshire, top-edged Plunkett to wicketkeeper Bairstow, and the visitors were all out when Ben Cotton skied Fisher high into the leg-side, the bowler completing the catch himself before being mobbed by jubilant colleagues.
Andrew Hodd was bowled by Cotton advancing to the second ball of Yorkshire’s reply, and Alex Lees holed out to third man.
But Gale and Bairstow effectively settled the issue with a stand of 69.