Khawaja century denies Yorks
Derbyshire 268 (Durston 84) and 190 for 5. (Khawaja 110*) drew with Yorkshire 420 (McGrath 104, Durston 5-34)
Should Derbyshire go on to secure promotion for the first time in their history in the next few weeks, they will be grateful to Australia's selection panel for allowing Usman Khawaja to remain in county cricket. Expected to be included in the A squad for the recent tour of England, he was allowed to continue in Division Two cricket and played a significant role in preventing defeat at Headingley.
Having arrived mid-way through the summer as a replacement for New Zealander Martin Guptill, Khawaja had already contributed three half-centuries in five Championship innings to ensure Derbyshire retained a lead at the top of Division Two. His century on the final day against Yorkshire, one of their promotion rivals, may prove to be his most valuable.
Having been forced to follow on 152 runs adrift early on the final day, Khawaja was called into action early in their second innings after Tim Bresnan claimed two wickets with the new ball to remove Derbyshire's openers. He played and missed on several occasions, provoking the fury of Ryan Sidebottom at one stage who was convinced he had edged behind, but battled through that difficult early stage to finish unbeaten on 110 after over four hours at the crease.
Between those difficult early stages of his innings and the end of the match, when both sides accepted the draw with 14 overs of the day's allocation remaining, Khawaja looked like a batsman that could yet forge a Test career. He has slipped behind several other candidates in the pecking order for next summer's Ashes series after scoring only one half-century in his six Test appearances, but facing England bowlers Bresnan and Sidebottom, he looked a player worthy of another chance.
"It means a lot to get runs under pressure like that," admitted Khawaja, who hit 14 fours and two sixes during his innings. "I didn't go out there trying to get a hundred, I just went out to knock off the runs and bat out time because they have a good bowling attack and were bowling pretty well.
"Sidebottom bowled beautifully. I didn't think he had that many overs in him, to be honest, but he just kept coming in and bowling. He's still got it and Bresnan bowled awesome, as he always does. They had a bit of cloud cover and really used it to their advantage. They are a very strong team and I will be surprised if they don't win a couple of games in the few games that are left."
Derbyshire were helped by Yorkshire missing the one opportunity that did present itself, with Wes Durston being dropped on 20 by Adil Rashid at midwicket after he clipped Bresnan off his legs. It allowed him to help Khawaja extend their third wicket partnership to 90, by which time they had almost wiped out the deficit.
Yorkshire's hopes of victory lifted briefly when Durston fell lbw to Steve Patterson and Dan Redfern edged Sidebottom behind in a three over spell, but Ross Whitely showed great composure to bat for nearly two hours for his 17, taking Derbyshire almost to the close. Khawaja still had time to demonstrate his class, lofting Rashid down the ground for six to bring up three figures with little regard to the tense match situation.
"Khawaja played well and dug in and sometimes you have to hold your hands up and praise the guy who plays well," Andrew Gale, Yorkshire's frustrated captain, conceded. "I thought he had a bit of luck along the way as well and must have played and missed more times than any of our batters did in our innings, but that can happen.
"We had a good start and got them two down and it would have been nice to back that up and get them 50 for 5 because the new ball is always key at Headingley with the wickets we have here. The most frustrating this is we've lost 104 overs to the weather and it's difficult to win at Headingley without four days good weather. The pitches here don't allow you to win in three days."
Derbyshire's day had not begun well after resuming their first innings on 233 for 8, still 38 runs away from avoiding the follow on. They got within 11 of making Yorkshire bat again, and effectively making the game safe, when David Wainwright was run out from fine leg attempting a risky second run.
Last man Tim Groenewald fell only three away from saving the follow on and when two early wickets fell to Bresnan early in their second innings, Yorkshire seemed set to claim their first Championship win since May. Now trailing Derbyshire, the Division Two leaders, by 21 points having played a game more, they need wins in at least two of their remaining three matches if they are to secure a top two finish and earn promotion.