Yorkshire hope for crucial follow on
Derbyshire 233 for 8 (Durston 84, Wainwright 45*, Sidebottom 3-28) trail Yorkshire 420 by 187 runs
After a summer disrupted by rain, Yorkshire can plead mitigating factors if they fail in their main objective and are unable to secure promotion from Division Two. They may also reflect on chances missed if they are unable to force home their advantage against Derbyshire, one of their main rivals, during another weather-interrupted day.
Trailing Derbyshire, the Division two leaders, by 26 points at the start of this round of matches having played a game more, Yorkshire were always aware they would need to beat them at Headingley to have any chance of closing the gap and applying pressure during the final weeks of the summer.
For the first two and a half days of a rain-affected match they had done nearly everything right in claiming maximum batting points while limiting Derbyshire to only one bowling point. They followed that by making early inroads, with Ryan Sidebottom's outstanding display of swing bowling reducing them to 42 for 4, still a long way from matching Yorkshire's 420, never mind avoiding the follow on.
Facing a real opportunity to dominate a session that could have been pivotal to their promotion hopes, Yorkshire allowed Derbyshire to recover with Will Durston and Ross Whiteley forging a 112-run stand.
Their defiance allowed the leaders to reach a respectable 233 for 8, but only after losing two late wickets at the end of a day that lost 24 overs to rain, still 38 runs away from avoiding the follow on.
"We've performed really well since the start of the game, we've probably won more sessions and more key periods, but it counts for nothing if we don't enforce that follow on," conceded Andrew Gale, Yorkshire's captain. "At the moment, it's probably the only way I can see us winning the match."
If there was a sense of deflation within the home dressing room, it was understandable after a vibrant start to the day, led by Sidebottom, which gave Yorkshire a real chance of their first championship victory since May. Bowling from the Rugby Stand End, Sidebottom gave an exemplary display of swing bowling and provided another platform for Andrew Hodd, Yorkshire's loan wicketkeeper, to prove his worth for a permanent contract.
Hodd, who scored a useful 58 on the previous day to help Yorkshire claim maximum batting points, set down a marker in the fourth over of the day with a brilliant, one-handed, diving catch down the leg-side after Usman Khawaja flicked at Sidebottom. Having established his athleticism, Hodd helped earn Sidebottom two further wickets during a spell of 7-3-9-2 by taking catches in front of slip to remove Matt Lineker and Dan Redfern.
While Sidebottom was impressive at the Rugby Stand End and Azeem Rafiq's offspin a consistent threat from the opposite end, Yorkshire appeared to have all the tools at their disposal to really push home their advantage. That they failed to do so can partly be explained by the frustration experienced by Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson, both of whom struggled to exploit the conditions as expertly as Sidebottom.
Confidence lifted by his five wickets in Yorkshire's first innings, Durston was happy to play aggressively and hit 14 boundaries in his 84 although he was given one reprieve on 78 when Adam Lyth failed to hold a sharp chance at slip off Rafiq. That escape was only temporary with Rafiq squeezing the ball past his forward defensive in his next over and onto the stumps.
Whiteley was equally effective, batting for over two and a half hours for his 35, before Patterson squeezed some joy from an otherwise demoralising day when he induced an edge behind to earn Hodd his fourth catch. Forced to rely on spin through fading light, Gale was rewarded in the last few overs with Rafiq and Adil Rashid both winning lbw decisions to keep Yorkshire's hopes alive of forcing home victory on the final day.
The main obstacle to that objective may yet be David Wainwright, the left-arm spinner they considered surplus to resources at the end of last summer, who has battled for nearly two hours for his unbeaten 45 and may play a key role in deciding his former county's fate.