Yorkshire face relegation after draw
Warwickshire 318 and 214 for 3 drew with Yorkshire 281 and 385 for 8 dec
Yorkshire look all but doomed to relegation after bad light ultimately put paid to their slim hopes of forcing the win against Warwickshire that would have kept them in with a realistic chance of escaping from the bottom two with only one match remaining.
After the two camps had hatched an agreement under which Warwickshire, who needed 349 to win from 78 overs when Yorkshire declared at midday, would commit themselves to chasing runs in the final session, umpires Peter Hartley and Jeff Evans had little option but to call a halt just before five o'clock in conditions so gloomy that fielding was becoming a problem, let alone facing quick bowling.
Given that they finished only 11 points behind champions Nottinghamshire last year, it is a huge disappointment not least for their stricken captain, Andrew Gale, who has been unable to play any part since breaking an arm almost three weeks ago.
Worcestershire's two-day win over Lancashire at New Road, while ensuring that the race for the title remains intriguingly tight, also opened up a gap between themselves and Yorkshire that now stands at 14 points.
With Jacques Rudolph unavailable because of international commitments, Joe Sayers led Yorkshire here and he conceded that the result means that effectively they have one foot in the Second Division already, with survival unlikely even if the match against Somerset at Headingley next week goes their way.
"Mathematically it is still possible for us to stay up but it is going to be very difficult now to pull it out of the bag," Sayers said. "All we can do is apply ourselves against Somerset in the same way we applied ourselves in this match.
"It was a sorry end to what had been a good game of four-day cricket in which we had played well, all the more disappointing because if we had played as well for the duration of the summer we would have been in a decent position in the table.
"The one positive we can take is that the way we have played in this game establishes a template for the way we want to play cricket in terms of style and attitude."
Sayers said that Yorkshire had no quibble with the umpires' decision to take the players off, despite the consequences for the county's future of denying them even the opportunity to secure a potentially vital win.
"It was the right decision," he said. "The light was not good, especially for batting and indeed even for fielding. It was becoming difficult to pick up the ball."
Warwickshire were satisfied ultimately with three points for a draw, despite Durham's win at Hove, given that they have two matches left in which to overturn a seven-point deficit, while the new leaders have only one.
Yet Ashley Giles, the county's director of cricket, was slightly more outspoken about the circumstances in which the game ended. "The umpires have to go with what the regulations say and today I feel they were right to come off but there are issues that need to be looked at," he said.
"Not using light meters, using the naked eye -- this is a professional game and surely there has to be a system that says that the light is too bad, this what the reading is, and you don't go out again until it improves."
However, regardless of how the contest fizzled out, there was a feeling perhaps that Yorkshire had set Warwickshire a target that was too high anyway on a day when they would have been no worse off losing.
The target of 349 meant that Warwickshire were almost certain to be chasing runs at five or six an over for a long period even if it went well for them, while 78 overs on a pitch that had flattened out was not a long span in which to take 10 wickets, especially given that one of them would almost certainly have to be that of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the same Shivnarine Chanderpaul who they had taken seven-and-a-quarter hours to get out at Headingley last week and a further four-and-a-half to see off in the first innings here.
Yet even after Gary Ballance had completed a fine maiden Championship century, Yorkshire batted on until noon, adding 66 to their overnight 319 for 5. Ballance eventually chipped a ball from Chris Woakes to mid-on where Jim Troughton took a considerably easier catch than the one he was to bring off shortly afterwards, one-handed on the run on the long-off boundary as Adil Rashid fell after making an attractive and important 82.
What followed next was immaterial in the broader scheme and merely denied the bowlers time to get at the Warwickshire batting. In the event, they got through 12 overs to lunch for the loss of only one wicket, when Varun Chopra was caught behind driving at Ajmal Shahzad.
In the afternoon, it became increasingly clear that Warwickshire's first priority was not to lose. They lost Ian Westwood, leg before on the back foot to Rashid, and Will Porterfield, who wasted a chance for a half-century by edging the deserving Steve Patterson to be caught behind. Chanderpaul, never in a particular hurry, should have been out on three, but Adam Lyth missed a sharp chance at slip off Patterson.
At tea, Warwickshire were 134 for 3, needing a further 215 for victory from 34 overs, and behind the scenes it emerged that Giles and his opposite number, Martyn Moxon, were cooking up a plan, one which became evident to the paying public when, at 173 for three, Sayers and Anthony McGrath engaged Troughton and Chanderpaul in conversation at the crease, after which Lyth and Joe Root tossed up a succession of easy deliveries, which were despatched with little fuss to bring the target down to 150 from 23 overs.
By now, however, the light was fading fast and while the Yorkshire players got together for a team meeting on the field -- a game-stopping move that would have demanded the captain called 'time out' had it been basketball or American football -- the umpires were exchanging opinions on matters of safety.
Indeed, it took only a couple of overs from Ryan Sidebottom for them to make up their minds and bring proceedings to an end that, for Yorkshire at any rate, will probably be somewhat momentous.