Warwickshire excited by Rankin's form
Yorkshire 302 and 180 (Ballance 45, Woakes 5-42) drew with Warwickshire 309 and 3 for 0
Warwickshire's frustration was greater than Yorkshire's when only an hour's play was possible on the final day, when heavy overnight rain persisted well into the morning to leave the Division One leaders less vulnerable to defeat than they might otherwise have been. Even so, had the weather been kind to the defending champions after a 2.40pm start, they might still have pulled off a third win in a row.
As it was, after completing the first part of their assignment by prising out the three remaining Yorkshire wickets, they had no sooner begun the chase for the 174 they needed than the weather closed in again, after only two overs of the 36 that theoretically were available.
The draw enabled Yorkshire to reinforce their lead a little, extending the gap between themselves and Sussex from seven points to 10. Warwickshire, with five games left, have 37 points to make up if they are to catch Yorkshire and retain the title they won last year, although as was pointed out by Varun Chopra, still acting captain while Jim Troughton struggles to regain full fitness, the gap is as it was.
"It would have been nice to have closed the gap with a win but with Sussex and Durham losing, we have not lost any ground," he said. "And we are playing some very good cricket now.
"We dominated against Middlesex and Notts in our last two games, which is easier said than done, and we were favourites to win this game here. With five games to go we will be a match for most teams and if we could win four of those we would have the same number of points that won us the title last year."
It took 13 overs for Yorkshire's attempted resistance to collapse after resuming on 148 for 7. Chris Woakes finished with 5 for 42, his best analysis of the season, after uprooting Ryan Sidebottom's stumps with his yorker and Boyd Rankin's pace and bounce was too much for Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks, both caught on the leg side fending off rising deliveries. The big Irishman might have seen them off sooner but in questionable light Chopra was anxious not to give the umpires an excuse to take the players off and felt obliged to use Jeetan Patel from time to time.
Chopra feels Rankin could be Warwickshire's trump card on the run-in, compensating for the loss of the injured Chris Wright. "He had got something different to most county cricketers, with being 6ft 8ins, massive and fast. Standing there at slip, you can see it is hitting the 'keeper real hard.
"He is a better bowler this year even than last, with his areas and lines that he bowls. Last year you might have got the odd release ball from him but he is more at the batsmen this time and it looks very uncomfortable for anyone facing him."
It was not one of Yorkshire's better performances, an analysis with which their captain, Andrew Gale, did not disagree, although he is not alarmed enough to revise his view that three more wins, perhaps even two, will be enough to clinch the title for Yorkshire for the first time since 2001.
"I thought 300 was a little below par but the way we bowled on the second day put us in a good position," he said. "But that morning session on the third day, where we had our foot on the throat of the defending champions, we let them off the hook. We should have made more than 180 in the second innings, when our batting was a bit soft in places, and that put them in a commanding position.
"We cannot afford to have many sessions like that if we are to win the title but it might not have been a bad thing in a way as a wake-up call.
"From here I think two more wins will put us in the mix, especially if we can beat Sussex away and Durham at Scarborough, and three would see us home."
Gale, whose side were a batsman short with Phil Jaques and Joe Sayers both injured, says that Yorkshire have ruled out signing an overseas batsman for the closing weeks of the season, despite the threat of losing another one, Gary Ballance, to England.
"The club's finances dictate what we can and can't do and there is no money there, it is as simple as that," he said. "But Phil is well on track to be back for the next Championship match and Joe is back playing second team today so we should have a full squad next time."
Gale admitted he would be irked if he were to lose Ballance to the England Lions games against Bangladesh A, which clash with Yorkshire's clash with Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
"As far as Gary is concerned if England come for him we will have no say in the matter, of course, but I would hope we would not lose him for the Lions game," he said.
"If he goes and plays for England that's fair enough but if it is for England Lions I think he'd be better off playing for us, in the Championship, to be honest. With the three in the senior side and five in the Under-19s I think we've given our fair share to the three lions."