Yorkshire promotion push in the balance
Yorkshire 249 (Jaques 75) and 74 for 3 drew with Northamptonshire 352 (Peters 107, Rashid 5-105)
This time, the rain was kind to Yorkshire, rescuing them from a position which by no means had them staring at a defeat but was not likely to lead them into anything but an anxious final afternoon. Three down in their second innings and still 29 behind when a forecast thunderstorm arrived just after lunch, they were less than downcast at the sight of groundstaff fighting a losing battle to cover the square.
It is the 10th draw of their soggy season, of which only four matches remain. The next three are at home, including one at Scarborough, with their pursuit of a top-two finish and an immediate return to Division One concluding against Essex at Chelmsford. Jason Gillespie, their ever-optimistic Australian coach, reckons Yorkshire need to win three of those matches, which would be asking a lot if it did not rain again between now and the middle of next month. In reality, they will probably need some help.
Gillespie's first season has seen Yorkshire advance on one front, reaching their first finals day in Twenty20, but 2013 marks the club's 150th anniversary and there is a sense of pride to be satisfied. A gallant near-miss in this year's promotion race may not go down well in the committee room.
"Look, everyone is in no doubt that promotion is our big goal for the season," Gillespie said. "We are confident that we have the game to succeed on that front but we need the weather to allow us to play.
"We were outplayed by Northamptonshire here, there's no doubt about that. Although the weather played a part, we did not play the cricket we know we can play. But I would like to win three of the four remaining games - or all four, preferably - and I think we are good enough to do it."
Yorkshire are where they want to finish as the table stands, in second place, ahead of Kent and Hampshire, but have played a match more than all of their rivals and are obliged to sit out the next round. By the time they take on Derbyshire, the leaders, at Headingley on August 15, the table will give a more realistic picture of their chances.
By then, in their favour, they should have Ryan Sidebottom back, provided a run-out with the Second XI confirms his recovery from a calf injury. His return would restore some confidence in the Yorkshire attack's potency as a wicket-taking force, as would a little more of the promise shown by Adil Rashid in this match.
Rashid's first five-wicket return since the beginning of last season suggested the leg-spinner's omission from the side since the middle of May, in Championship cricket at least, has had the effect it was hoped it might.
"Adil bowled really well," Gillespie said. "He was disappointed to be left out but his attitude had been spot on and the way he has responded has been brilliant.
"He could have gone the other way and been quite negative but he has been positive, gone out and played some second team games and shown a good attitude to training and preparation. He has tinkered with his action a bit and has come back, bowled 31 overs and taken five wickets. We are delighted he has done so well."
Rashid found some encouragement in the pitch here, which was one reason why the final two sessions, had they gone ahead, could have been an ordeal for Yorkshire. James Middlebrook, too, was beginning to enjoy himself.
The offspinner had claimed one wicket and was bowling with four fielders around the bat until play was called off. He had dismissed Phil Jaques and there was pressure at the other end, too, mostly exerted by David Willey, who conceded only 10 runs in as many overs from the Wantage Road end following a similarly disciplined spell by Oliver Stone, the 18-year-old, who picked up his second wicket in the match when Adam Lyth sliced him to point. Willey had Joe Root caught at second slip during a sequence of seven consecutive maidens.