Yorkshire fight to keep hopes alive
Yorkshire 281 and 319 for 5 v Warwickshire 318
Yorkshire may still be relegated one year after finishing only 11 points short of winning the County Championship but they are at least promising to make a fight of it. They closed day three with a lead of 282 after an unbroken partnership worth 149 between Gary Ballance and Adil Rashid swung the game potentially in their favour.
It will leave stand-in captain Joe Sayers needing to make the right decision over when to declare but after the success his bowlers enjoyed with the second new ball in Warwickshire's first innings he will at least do so with reasonable confidence that they can take 10 wickets, although with the obstacle of Shivnarine Chanderpaul in the home side's armoury and not a lot in the pitch, much will depend on striking early blows.
Ballance, in his fourth season with Yorkshire but a regular in the Championship side only this year, is eight runs away from his maiden century in the competition after a fine season in which he has passed 50 nine times. No century will have been better deserved.
Although the Warwickshire bowlers have enjoyed better days, and certainly needed some inspiration once the ball had lost its hardness, neither Ballance nor Rashid offered a chance, the latter having completed his third half-century of the season. Given that they have no Jacques Rudolph nor Andrew Gale available, both of whom looked key to their avoiding the drop, Yorkshire can at least congratulate themselves on a plucky effort.
Yet they know that nothing less than a win here will do, with only one match to follow. Worcestershire's victory over Lancashire, while opening up the race for the title and ensuring that Warwickshire will want to chase runs as eagerly as Yorkshire pursue wickets, leaves Yorkshire 17 points from safety as things stand. Warwickshire overnight are level with Lancashire but with Durham threatening to overtake both. It promises to be an intriguing final day.
In a fascinating third day, Yorkshire had been on top at lunch, leading by five runs and with all second innings wickets intact. But well though Joe Root and Anthony McGrath played in the afternoon, Warwickshire fought back strongly, with their on-loan pace bowler Chris Wright to the fore, and the content remained in the balance at tea.
The first over of the middle session was particularly damaging for the relegation contenders, who lost Sayers to its third ball and Adam Lyth to the sixth as Wright, who had taken seven wickets against Yorkshire on his Warwickshire debut last week, gave his temporary employers more food for thought as they weigh up next season's plans.
The 26-year-old, tall and quick, is surplus to Essex's requirements, having previously had three years at Middlesex without making a huge impression. Perhaps he is a late developer. Here he has proved a handful in several spells, particularly in the second innings.
He had Sayers caught at slip pushing forward and did for Lyth in three deliveries, greeting the left-hander with a short ball that pinged off his helmet for four, keeping him on the back foot with his next one and then bowling a full one that pinned him leg before.
The impressively composed, technically proficient Root, who looks on the evidence of his first full season to have a fine future, was joined by McGrath and the pair reclaimed the initiative for a while, adding 50 in a little under 15 overs. But after Chris Woakes, in what thus far had been one of his less impressive matches, had failed to make an impact, the young left-arm spinner, Chris Metters, found a gap in Root's defences, trapping the opener with an arm ball as he played for turn.
Metters took some punishment as McGrath and the naturally aggressive Jonny Bairstow tried to hit him out of the attack, Bairstow's second scoring shot sailing over his head for six. But Jim Troughton stuck with the youngster and was rewarded when Bairstow made an ambitious attempt to clear the midwicket boundary and succeeded only in finding the man on the rope.
McGrath completed only his second half-century of a poor, injury-hit season and had looked generally in good order, even though he gave a difficult chance to second slip off Keith Barker on 35, a rare miss by Rikki Clarke, whose four catches in the first innings took his tally to 35 for the season, which is a record for an outfield player since the Championship split into two divisions. The all-time record stands at 38.
But when Wright returned at the pavilion end he was quick to claim a third victim and significantly it was McGrath, leg before playing back to one that kept a little low. As Yorkshire went to tea at 177 for 5, a lead of 140, Warwickshire just had the edge.
The morning, though, had belonged to Yorkshire, who still had work to do at the resumption, even after the two blows struck by Ryan Sidebottom late on Thursday evening, the most important of which saw Chanderpaul depart for 110, had brought the day to a close with the scores level.
There was potential still in Warwickshire's talented lower order to establish a decent lead but the Yorkshire bowlers continued to use the new ball to good effect and would have been highly satisfied to collect full bowling bonus points and restrict the home side to an advantage of just 37. Indeed, after Sidebottom had given Yorkshire another major boost when Tim Ambrose sliced a drive to gully for 62, it took the visitors only a little over 10 more overs to finish the innings.
Moin Ashraf, the 19-year-old quick bowler whose opportunities have been limited this season, produced a fine lifting delivery that had Woakes taken behind the stumps and then benefited from Barker aiming a swish at pretty poor one and getting himself caught behind down the leg side.
Warwickshire by now had at least claimed the third batting point to draw level with Lancashire at the top of the table but ran out of batsmen when Clarke played across the line trying to whip Ajmal Shahzad through midwicket and was leg before. The second new ball had thus taken six wickets in the space of 16 overs for 46. Sidebottom, who took his last three in 18 deliveries, collected his second five-wicket haul since rejoining Yorkshire.
Reaching lunch with the arrears cancelled and no losses to Warwickshire's first probings with the new ball came as a further bonus. And while the afternoon was edged by the home side, the way the evening unfolded has set things up nicely for an exciting conclusion.