Yorkshire hopes washes away at Hove
Yorkshire 326 (Lyth 93, Williamson 80, Zaidi 4-57) and 81 for 2 drew with Sussex 292 (Brown 84*, Sidebottom 4-50) and 333 for 3 dec (Nash 167*, Hamilton-Brown 126*)
An embarrassing morning's cricket was followed by an afternoon of rain and bad light on the final day of this game. The first session saw Andrew Gale's players contrive an opportunity to win the game and close the gap on Durham at the top of Division One; but the deteriorating weather ensured that Yorkshire's batsmen would have no chance to take that opportunity.
And as the rain got heavier at Hove, news came through of the clatter of wickets at Derby. Durham's win leaves them 27.5 points clear of Yorkshire at the top of the Division One table; that is a massive gap to make up in two games and as Gale and his players shook the hands of their Sussex counterparts on the pavilion balcony, one felt that it foreshadowed the congratulations they will offer Paul Collingwood's men at some point in the next fortnight.
Inevitably on days such as this some attention will focus on the morning decision to set up a game. Gale and Ed Joyce agreed that Yorkshire should chase 300 in around 60 overs and the first session saw this target arranged by 32.5 overs of stuff which could certainly not be described as competitive play. But once that disagreeable operation was completed, the patient spectators thought they could look forward to two session of keenly-contested cricket. Well, so much for such fond expectations.
But it is important on days such as this to retain a sense of perspective and proportion. Some thousands of matches have seen targets set up by declaration bowling; indeed, the agreed run-chase was a very common feature of the unlamented three-day game. So before anyone is tempted to mount the pulpit steps and denounce Yorkshire and Sussex for the sinful tactics they adopted, they should reflect that every one of the first-class counties have done the same in their time.
Presented with opponents who were prepared to set a target on a good wicket, Gale took the hard-nosed professional decision that his chances of victory were better if chasing 300 runs in two session than by trying to take Sussex's last eight wicket cheaply on a flat pitch. This can scarcely be seen as a thumping vote of no-confidence in his seam attack, especially as the murky morning light at Hove would have prompted the umpires to take the players off if Sidebottom and Plunkett had been bowling. There is not a county captain who would not understand Gale's choice; Collingwood may have embraced exactly that tactic.
It is also useful, though, to have a sense of the ridiculous when watching the nonsense that was served up. Chris Nash made 167 not out off 137 balls and Rory Hamilton-Brown clubbed an unbeaten 126 off 83; it is doubtful if either man has ever worked less hard for his runs, even in his back garden. Phil Jacques took his maiden first-class wicket when Ed Joyce whacked him to Jack Brooks at mid-on.
The cricket was barely watchable at times, so absurd was the play. It is a curious game where the umpires can take the players off the field because the conditions are a trifle dangerous but not because the sport itself is total dross. The spectators might have been well served if screens had been put up around the boundary. As it was, they stuck it out in a mood of Stoic understanding, perhaps confident that there were good times just around the corner.
If so, they were disappointed. Yorkshire lost the wickets of makeshift opener Liam Plunkett, caught at midwicket of Lewis Hatchett for 11, and Phil Jacques, lbw when reverse-sweeping Ashar Zaidi for 23. Adam Lyth was 40 not out when the rain returned. The young opener, at least, has had a decent four days. His team, by contrast, have probably seen their title hopes washed away at the seaside.