Lancashire v Yorkshire, Liverpool, 3rd day May 20, 2011

Rain spurs Yorkshire's hopes

Jon Culley at Aigburth

Yorkshire 141 and 131 for 2 v Lancashire 329

Yorkshire were not ready to countenance another batting performance with the shortcomings of their first innings here but their prospects of escaping with a draw were advanced substantially nonetheless by a rain interruption that eventually spanned more than three and a half hours.

Two down for 85 in the second innings when a heavy shower heralded the frustratingly long stoppage, they added a further 41 runs in 50 minutes after play restarted at 5.40pm without further loss and will need to add another 57 to make Lancashire bat again on the final day.

Joe Sayers completed his second half-century of the match and Andrew Gale is three runs away from following suit. With the pitch taking spin, Lancashire had Steven Croft bowling offbreaks in support of Gary Keedy and might wish they had stuck with Simon Kerrigan after his match-winning performance at Edgbaston. Then again, with Jimmy Anderson itching for a big send-off ahead of next week's first Test, Lancashire will expect their seamers to inflict some damage on the final morning.

It had taken only 11 deliveries for Lancashire to lose their last two wickets as the day began in relatively pleasant weather, albeit a good 10 degrees cooler than the balmy days of late April when Somerset were beaten here.

Steve Patterson, whose form has been patchy but who looked somewhere near his best in this match, had Luke Procter leg before with his first ball of the morning as the left-hander tried to work the ball to leg and uprooted Gary Keedy's off stump four balls later. The 6ft 4ins seamer finished with 4 for 51 from 24.5 overs, which will advance his claims for a regular place in the side as Yorkshire seek to settle on their best attack.

Nonetheless, Lancashire's lead of 188 on a pitch that has generally played slow and low would have left Yorkshire with a lot to do to escape with a draw had the forecast of passing showers not proved somewhat optimistic.

When umpires Neil Bainton and Richard Illingworth ushered the players off just after two o'clock it was expected to be only a brief interruption but a scheduled restart at five past three had to be knocked on the head and every hint of brightening skies seemed to prompt another intense burst.

Even so, Yorkshire will still have something to do on the last day against a Lancashire attack that seems more than capable of setting up a fourth win in five matches and a first home win over their cross-Pennine rivals since 2000.

Anderson, who will not play again in the Championship after this match until at least late in the season (and only then, perhaps, if he is not recalled for England's one-day team), looked as motivated as ever to make his contribution meaningful. After one fevered appeal for a caught behind off a short ball to Joe Sayers was turned down, Anderson's follow-through ended with him eyeball-to-eyeball with the batsman, presumably asking him to reflect on his good fortune.

It did not impress Sayers, who is little by little reacquiring the characteristic stubbornness that made him such a doughty opponent before he was laid low by illness last year. Anderson has found as much life in this pitch as anyone and was unlucky to be wicketless after bowling seven consistently challenging overs before the rain came.

The wickets instead went to Chapple, who upped the pressure on the Yorkshire batsmen by not conceding a run until his seventh over, and Farveez Maharoof.

Chapple struck in his fourth over with a ball that stopped on Adam Lyth enough to induce a tame return catch from the left-hander, who is struggling to match the form he enjoyed in the early part of last season, when he went close to the coveted feat of scoring 1,000 first-class runs by the end of May.

His return thus far this season has been a paltry 283, even taking three half-centuries into account. He has been dismissed in single figures in five of his last seven innings, although talk of his being dropped is premature.

Yorkshire need his quality, especially now that the loss of Jacques Rudolph is being felt. Joe Root, the 20-year-old from Sheffield, has made a good impression every time he has played but it is on the shoulders of Lyth, Sayers and Andrew Gale that responsibility lies, and with Anthony McGrath when he regains his fitness.

Root fell to Maharoof, in two minds about whether to go forward or back to a ball that kept a touch low. Apart from the moment that Anderson thought he had found an edge or a glove, when he had scored only one, Sayers has looked solid. With no Jonny Bairstow or Gerard Brophy to come, he and Gale hold the key to Yorkshire's survival.