McGrath rolls back years with ton
Derbyshire 28 for 1 trail Yorkshire 420 (McGrath 104, Lyth 93, Ballance 79, Durston 5-34) by 392 runs
As a negotiating tactic to try and secure another contract, scoring a century to guide Yorkshire to maximum batting points against one of their main promotion rivals is probably as good as any. Having postponed talks on a new deal until next month, Anthony McGrath is putting up a strong case to continue a county career already spanning 17 years.
Expected to be the player most under threat by the emergence of Joe Root at the start of the summer, McGrath has responded to the challenge impressively. He scored his first century in a year earlier this summer against Hampshire and has now followed that with 104 against Derbyshire, the Division Two leaders, to put Yorkshire in command of a rain-affected match.
His innings, which included 10 fours and a six, helped secure maximum batting points with three balls of their allocated 110 overs remaining with McGrath bringing up the landmark in conjunction with his century by on-driving Tim Groenewald. It laid the platform for Yorkshire to either declare immediately to give themselves more time to bowl at Derbyshire, or advance quickly towards a major first innings total.
In the event they did neither, losing five wickets for nine runs in the next 15 balls to a succession of ill-conceived shots and were dismissed for 420. They only recovered their momentum when Tim Bresnan, who raced up the M1 to join the match after being overlooked by England for the final Test, won an lbw decision against Wayne Madsen with the final delivery of the day.
"The bonus points system always keeps it interesting at the end," McGrath admitted. "Derbyshire probably did us a bit of a favour by sticking people on the fence, which made it a bit easier. Three, four or five runs were available every over from 98 overs, so we were confident of getting there. We wanted to bowl at them, but we also wanted to try and get as many as possible."
Yorkshire's equation was complicated by the 26-point lead Derbyshire had secured at the top of Division Two, ensuring they have little to gain in engineering a finish should more time be lost in the match. It put the onus on quick run-scoring when Yorkshire resumed on 127 for 2 having lost the final two sessions of the opening day to rain.
Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance provided that impetus, scoring at nearly four an over throughout the morning session during a 116-run partnership. Lyth fell seven short of his century and Ballance followed shortly after lunch for an eye-catching 79, both perishing to loose shots attempting to push the scoreboard along.
Restricted to only two runs an over for the first half hour after lunch, McGrath teamed up with Andrew Hodd, making his debut as a loan signing from Sussex and also hoping to secure a new contract at the end of the summer. They were both frustrated by Derbyshire's initial accuracy, but needing 24 off the final four overs of allocated bonus point overs, they accelerated to reach their objective during a 131-run stand.
They fell in quick succession with Wes Durston, Derbyshire's off-spinner, exploiting Yorkshire's desire for rapid runs to finish with career-best figures of 5 for 34, although Hodd must also have gone a long way towards securing a permanent contract by scoring 58 precious runs on debut.
"It's probably different to what he's used to down in Sussex because the wickets are different up here, especially this one because there's more grass on this pitch than there has been for a long time," McGrath explained. "If you bowl straight with pace it's difficult to score. He found it tough during that period, but got through that and played really well and was integral towards us getting full batting points."
Having given themselves only 11 overs to bowl at Derbyshire, Yorkshire looked likely to be frustrated until Bresnan struck with the final ball, but it will take fair weather and an exceptional performance on an easy-paced wicket to contrive the victory they require to close the gap on the leaders.