ON the one hand, the portents were not favourable: Yorkshire had lost 16 of their previous 19 List A semi-finals dating back to 1979.
On the other, when they last reached a one-day final in 2002, Yorkshire beat yesterday’s opponents in the semi-finals at Headingley before going on to beat Somerset – who contest the other semi against Warwickshire today – by six wickets at Lord’s.
Something had to give, and on a grey day at Headingley, that something was the hope that Surrey’s latest semi-final trip to Leeds might prove a good omen.
After the visitors scored 255-7, Steven Davies leading the way with 104 and Ben Foakes making a one-day career-best 90, Yorkshire came up short at 236 as their semi-final hoodoo continued apace.
Before a disappointing crowd of 4,836, which was not the bumper gate Yorkshire had been hoping for on Bank Holiday Sunday, the hosts made an excellent start after winning the toss.
Jack Brooks had Dominic Sibley lbw with the final delivery of the second over – umpire Peter Hartley deciding that the ball would not have drifted down leg-side, as replays suggested it might – and Tim Bresnan picked up the key wicket of Kumar Sangakkara with the fourth delivery of the third over.
The Sri Lankan, who had chopped the previous ball to the point boundary to get off the mark, drove on the up to cover, where Azeem Rafiq picked out the catch.
Sangakkara, who won the quarter-final against Northants with an unbeaten 130, has a mystifyingly poor record against Yorkshire; in eight innings against them in all cricket, he has managed 179 runs at 22.37.
From 8-2, things could only get better for Surrey, and they did as Davies and Rory Burns added 53 in 12 overs.
Davies, silky and stylish through the offside, injected impetus and Burns kept him good company, sensibly giving his partner as much strike as possible. Just as Surrey were starting to seize control, Matthew Waite, the 20-year-old making his first appearance in this year’s tournament, broke the stand with his opening ball from the Kirkstall Lane end.
It was an innocuous leg-stump half-volley, and Burns carelessly helped it to Steve Patterson at deep fine-leg.
Waite might have had a wicket with his fourth ball, too, when Davies, on 43, drove back a return chance, but the ball seemed to come back a little slower than Waite expected, and the opportunity was lost.
It was another 24 overs before Yorkshire struck again, Waite finally getting Davies when he wellied a low full toss to deep square.
Thus ended a stand of 130 between Davies and Foakes, which beat Surrey’s previous best for the fourth wicket in one-day cricket against Yorkshire of 110 between Monty Lynch and Andrew Needham at Bradford in 1985.
Waite captured his third wicket when Sam Curran highlighted Surrey’s tendency towards over-funkiness by trying one ramp shot too many, stepping away so far to the offside that he was unable to prevent the ball clattering into leg stump.
Surrey ideally needed one of Davies or Foakes to be there at the end, but Foakes followed his partner back to the pavilion when he was sixth out at 249, ramping Bresnan to Brooks at short fine-leg.
Ollie Pope, an 18-year-old making his List A debut, chipped in with 20, but boundaries proved elusive as Surrey failed to summon a grandstand finish.
Yorkshire’s bowlers deserved credit for restricting them, and Pope was run-out off the final ball of the innings as only 63 came off the last 10 overs.
It felt as though Yorkshire had their noses in front at halfway, but those noses were put out of joint when Adam Lyth hit Jade Dernbach to cover in the third over.
Alex Lees played some handsome strokes before being undone in the flight by Gareth Batty, and Yorkshire lost the key wicket of Jonny Bairstow when he chipped Stuart Meaker’s third ball to mid-wicket.
In Meaker’s second over, Gary Ballance tried to steer to third man and was caught behind, and Meaker claimed his third victim in nine balls when Jack Leaning chopped on.
Having looked relatively comfortable at 75-2, Yorkshire were suddenly 81-5 and looking anything but in control, the soft nature of their dismissals undoubtedly a frustration.
But Yorkshire showed characteristic fight as Bresnan and Waite combined in a stand of 80 in 16 that changed the mood and momentum.
Waite, impressively unflustered for one so young, showed a fine temperament and some deft touches before falling for 38, the ball perhaps stopping in the pitch as he lobbed Sam Curran to Batty at mid-off. Bresnan then added 46 in eight overs with Will Rhodes, who was brilliantly run-out by a direct hit from Tom Curran at point as he tried to steal a single off Dernbach.
Tom Curran had Rafiq caught at long-on and Patterson held at mid-wicket, and Dernbach ended things with seven balls remaining when Bresnan picked out long-off.