Rashid shows promise on return
Northamptonshire 175 for 3 (Peters 74*) trail Yorkshire 249 (Jaques 75, Daggett 3-64) by 74 runs
On the face of it, this was not a helpful day in Yorkshire's pursuit of promotion. Only 57.4 overs could be played and Northamptonshire have set themselves up nicely to pass Yorkshire's first-innings total, thanks to an unbroken partnership of 69 between Stephen Peters and Rob Newton. But in a season during which they have spent almost as much time in the changing rooms as on the field, they are used to finding a positive nuance in an unpromising script.
On this occasion, they did not have to look very far. Adil Rashid, whose prowess as a legspin bowler had waned so severely he was dropped from the Yorkshire team before these sides met at Headingley in May, has been recalled for only his second Championship match since. In what was, in effect, his first proper bowl in that time - he had just one over in a rain-wrecked contest at Colwyn Bay in June - he looked in surprisingly good order.
In two spells totalling nine overs, he gave the ball a loop, found some turn, conceded only one boundary and claimed only his 10th wicket of the season with a delivery that spun and bounced and had Alex Wakely caught at second slip. If lack of confidence had been a problem to him during a difficult 12 months, it did not seem to be a handicap this time.
Indeed, he confirmed afterwards that something of the old Rashid, the one that was picked to tour India with England in 2008, was beginning to resurface.
"I felt good, my areas felt good, I felt I was threatening, I didn't bowl many bad balls," he said. "There is still a long way to go and I need to get a lot more overs under my belt to get some real rhythm but once I get a few wickets I will come back into my own again."
Rashid's form had been on the slide since early last season, when an 11-wicket haul in the opening match against Worcestershire proved something of a false promise. By the end of the summer he had taken only 28 more in first-class games. This season, he has found no momentum at all.
"It has been difficult to get that confidence back and the lack of bowling has not helped," he said. "And when I have come back into the side I have put myself under a lot of pressure.
"But they have told me to relax, to see my role as a wicket-taker, and that if it goes round the park, so be it. And that mindset helps take the pressure off me.
"I can only take one match at a time but I felt as good today as I have in a while. I have been out of the side for a couple of months so I have had a long time to work on my action and on the mental side of things and now I just want to have the match practice and basically to bowl and bowl.
"It is getting there slowly and hopefully I can get more overs under my belt in the next month or so. With where we are in the season it would be a good time to get back into form.
"Every player, even the best players in the world, go through bad patches. I've been up and down and hopefully I can come back on a high."
An effective Rashid would clearly be a boon to Yorkshire in their efforts not to blow their chance of going back up at the first attempt following last summer's relegation from Division One.
If there are question marks over whether they have what it takes, they concern their bowling. Steve Patterson, their leading wicket-taker in the Championship with 29, has been asked to carry a heavy burden of responsibility and has done so pretty well but the support for him has been a little lightweight.
Richard Pyrah is a solid, well-organised seamer but has no history of bowling sides out. Strike bowler Moin Ashraf and offspinner Azeem Rafiq, meanwhile, are young men with their best years ahead of them. Ryan Sidebottom will be back soon, assuming his recovery from a calf muscle injury is not set back when he plays for the second XI next week, but it would be useful and timely if Rashid could re-emerge now as a force.
His first priority, along with Patterson and company, is to ensure Northamptonshire do not build a substantial advantage from the platform built by Peters and Newton. Rafiq, into the attack in the first hour, had Kyle Coetzer well caught at backward point cutting, and Pyrah found the edge to have David Sales taken at second slip by a tumbling Adam Lyth just before lunch, but the fourth-wicket pair looked well set when rain swept in at tea.