Yorkshire's dream withering away
Yorkshire 109 for 3 (Gale 66) v Middlesex
There have been several moments in the last few weeks that appeared pivotal in the title race, but Yorkshire may reflect on another frustrating battle with the weather as the day their Championship dream died. As news filtered through of Durham's domination of Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire were restricted to only 42.1 overs against Middlesex, denying them the opportunity to close the gap at the top of the Division One table.
Already trailing Durham by 27.5 points at the start of the match, that deficit increased by four points by the end of a dramatic day and left even the most optimistic of Yorkshire supporters - a rarity in itself - preparing for an inevitable disappointment. Having led the table by 25.5 points with four matches remaining, Yorkshire's fate could be sealed in the next 24 hours if they fail to secure enough bonus points and Durham complete an emphatic victory.
"It's not been a great day and if things go as they are doing, Durham might have it wrapped up by tomorrow night, which will be gutting," admitted Andrew Gale, Yorkshire's captain. "With the run they are having, what can we do? We're playing good cricket ourselves but we're not bowling teams out for 70 every week."
The day began badly for Yorkshire after they lost the toss in seamer-friendly conditions and quickly lost both their openers inside the first three overs, just as news was filtering in of Nottinghamshire capitulating to 78 all out at Chester-le-Street. Given they had subsequent rain and bad light interruptions, to finish on 109 for 3 would have been an impressive effort in any other situation than this.
Adam Lyth fell to the ninth ball of the match, lbw to a full-length delivery from Corey Collymore and was followed in the next over when Phil Jaques edged Tim Murtagh behind to leave Yorkshire on 1 for 2. Coming as it did only three days after the demoralising events of Saturday when their attempted victory chase against Sussex at Hove was washed out and Durham completed a remarkable triumph over Derbyshire, dressing room morale cannot have been very high.
Given that background, the desire, determination and skill displayed by Gale and Kane Williamson, Yorkshire's New Zealand overseas batsman, in forging a 97-run third wicket partnership was outstanding. Both batsmen had to live on their wits with both Collymore and Murtagh beating the bat on a regular basis during the early stages, before playing with greater flair as the ball got older.
Williamson, brought in late in the season to cover England calls, showed great resilience and was happy to defend while Gale played the more expansive shots, steadily reaching 14 off 79 balls before opening out to pull Collymore for successive fours just before the penultimate interruption. Having reached 66, only 15 runs shorts of 1,000 Championship runs this season, Gale was furious with himself after edging Collymore behind only six overs before bad light ended the day.
A year after fulfilling the demands of Geoffrey Boycott, the club president, in winning promotion to put themselves in position to win the title in their 150th anniversary season, Yorkshire are left praying for a remarkable turnaround in events if they are not going to end the summer empty handed.
"The weather is frustrating, but we can't do anything about that," said Gale. "The weather is always going to play a major part at this time of year, but it looks like Durham are getting more play than us again.
"It is difficult because the lads are looking at their phones and have one eye on what's going on, particularly when Notts were bowled out for 78 by lunch, but we are trying in this game to get a result.
"Maybe Notts will go out and perform tomorrow with the bat, they can't bat that badly again surely when you look at their batting line-up? We have to just concentrate on what we're doing and get ourselves into a good position."