Yorkshire all set for intriguing climax to Roses clash
IF YORKSHIRE win this match it would be only the second time in 25 seasons that they have beaten Lancashire in a County Championship game at Headingley.
That emphasises the historical difficulty of the task at hand, and the actual challenge may be no less testing as the contest winds towards a thrilling climax.
Lancashire head into the final day on 41-1 in their second innings, needing a further 308 for victory.
It would be some achievement if they go on to record their seventh-highest chase in a Championship game, and the seventh-highest winning total that Yorkshire have conceded.
But, as the late, great Fred Trueman once said, anyone foolish enough to predict the outcome of this match is a fool.
The only certainty is that, weather permitting, the game is set for a compelling climax after three days of fiercely contested action.
Yorkshire are undoubtedly the favourites, but only to the extent that you would put somebody else’s house on them, perhaps, as opposed to the alternative of risking your own bricks and mortar.
If the champions win, they would draw level on points with Lancashire at the top, with the Red Rose remaining in first place by virtue of having one more win.
If Lancashire prevail, they would draw 32 points clear of their hosts, while, if it is a tie, the world would probably go into mathematical meltdown.
Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first-team coach, believes the contest is beautifully balanced.
“It’s finely poised,” he said. “Lancs have fought hard and I think we’ve bowled pretty well too.
“We’ve been a lot more like it with the ball in this match so far, and Tim Bresnan coming back in balances the attack nicely and frees up Jack Brooks and Liam Plunkett, for example, who are very attacking bowlers.
“There’s still areas for us to be better at, we know that, but there have been a lot of positives so far in this game.”
Gillespie went on: “The key thing now is not to focus on the outcome of this match.
“We just need to make sure that we’re bowling enough good deliveries to challenge the Lancashire defence and just be consistent.
“If we can do that, then we’ll give ourselves a really good chance.
“But we’ll have to bowl really well.”
Yorkshire started day three on 77-3 in their second innings, a healthy lead of 189.
Beneath leaden skies and in a howling wind more evocative of January than the eve of June, Lancashire pegged them back with three wickets inside the first half-hour.
Adam Lyth clipped the first ball of the day from Neil Wagner to the mid-wicket boundary, but was bowled around his legs by the second delivery to depart for 48.
Steve Patterson, the nightwatchman, was caught behind off Tom Smith, and Yorkshire were in a spot of discomfort when Andrew Gale popped Wagner to short-leg to leave them 89-6, 201 in front.
The situation might have got worse, but Bresnan edged Smith just wide of Karl Brown in the slips before he had scored.
As it was, Bresnan and Adil Rashid – for the second time in the game – combined in a steadying seventh-wicket stand that ensured Yorkshire’s platform did not go to waste.
The pair added 41 in 17 overs before Bresnan was caught low down at slip by Liam Livingstone off Luke Procter, a decision with which Bresnan clearly disagreed.
The all-rounder felt that the ball had bounced before it reached Livingstone, who moments earlier had dropped Rashid on 10 off Procter, a presentable slip chance diving to his right.
Rashid found another strong ally in Plunkett, with whom he added 74 in 23 overs to tilt the game firmly in Yorkshire’s favour.
Rashid finally popped up a catch into the short-leg area off Wagner to end the partnership, and Plunkett progressed to the top score of 57 before he was ninth out at 221, caught at deep cover off Simon Kerrigan.
Procter bowled Jack Brooks to end the innings, Wagner’s return of 4-71 giving him match figures of 8-146.
There were 40 overs left when Tom Smith and Haseeb Hameed strode out to open the Lancashire innings, and they had lifted the score to 21-0 from eight overs at tea.
Smith fell with the total on 28 when he drove Patterson to Plunkett at short cover, but bad light brought a premature end with 16.4 overs remaining.
No sooner had the players reached the pavilion when there was an intriguing message from the Yorkshire PA man, who declared: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is a genuine announcement. If anyone has any knowledge of racing pigeons, would they please go to the Carnegie Pavilion.”
Further investigation revealed that a pigeon had been found dazed and confused in the North East Stand.
The Yorkshire office staff gave it some water and made contact with its owner, who casually advised them to “throw it back into the air”.