Finch aids Yorkshire's juggling act with the weather
Warwickshire 69 and 43 for 1 require a further 391 to beat Yorkshire 213 and 289 for 7 dec (Rhodes 79, Finch 73*)
Had the weather been less unsettled all week, Yorkshire would surely be halfway up the M1 by now, celebrating their sixth Championship win of the season. As it is, they face another day of darting between the showers in Birmingham on Wednesday if they wish to seal a thumping victory and take their biggest stride yet towards a second consecutive County Championship title.
By the close of a day in which 42 overs were lost to a conveyor belt of black clouds rolling in from the west, Warwickshire had reached 43 for 1 in pursuit of an unobtainable 434. With the fourth ball of their reply, Ryan Sidebottom's trademark in-curler inflicted an ignominious pair on the home captain, Varun Chopra, but Jonathan Trott and Ian Westwood guarded against another calamity with an unbroken second-wicket stand.
Yorkshire's second innings had been one of curiously indecisive dominance. The day had dawned with the clear hope that Will Rhodes, their hugely promising 20-year-old opener, would convert his maiden Championship hundred into a platform-setting century.
However, the loss of all but half an hour's play on a rain-wrecked morning caused a recalibration of their priorities and Rhodes was eventually caught behind off Oliver Hannon-Dalby for a hard-earned 79 from 186 balls, unselfishly seeking to up the tempo when ordinary circumstances might have permitted him more time to grind out his runs.
The day's early pace-setter had been Rhodes' overnight partner, Jack Leaning, who resumed with fluency to add 18 quick runs to his overnight 28 before fencing a lifter off Boyd Rankin to the keeper. The promotion of Aaron Finch to No. 4 seemed a clear statement of Yorkshire's intent to step up the tempo. However, with a highest score of 33 in all competitions this season, time in the middle for Finch seemed every bit as important to Yorkshire's long-term cause.
Though he finished with 73 off 75 balls, his innings seemed very much a work in progress as he continued to feel his way back after a hamstring injury. An early six off Rankin was followed, from the penultimate delivery before the declaration, by the most emphatic stroke of the day, a full-blooded strike into the stands at long-on off Hannon-Dalby. But in between whiles Finch was subdued, if never stationary, as Yorkshire rotated the strike well against a Warwickshire attack who maintained their discipline but whose stuffing hadn't really been replaced after the horrors of the second day.
"I haven't made many runs to be fair, but coming back after a long lay-off has been tough," said Finch. "But I feel mentally really good, physically good, and my game is in good order. It was good to get up there and bat at four and have a bit more time in the middle and play some shots."
Andrew Gale came and went cheaply, bowled by Jeetan Patel for his second score of 1 in the match, whereupon Jonny Bairstow, playing with the freedom of a man in the form of his life, threw caution to the wind and the bat to the ball to swipe 23 from 20 balls, including a four and two sixes in consecutive deliveries before holing out to Westwood at deep cover two balls later.
Tim Bresnan came and went in a comedy run-out, as he and Finch attempted a second overthrow after two wayward shies, before James Middlebrook was caught at short cover to give Hannon-Dalby his third of the innings.
After Sidebottom's early strike, anything seemed possible but Yorkshire's eagerness to bowl magic balls got the better of them as Trott and Westwood repelled the new-ball threat.
"It's about being consistent and patient," said Finch, "not trying to bowl them out in a session. Wickets have fallen in clumps so we need to maintain that pressure with balls in a row.
"We can't control the weather, but we've given ourselves a minimum of 110 overs. We've tried to put ourselves in a position that makes it a hell of a chase for them if they decide to go for it. It's a catch-22, if we get them nine-down we'll be cursing, but I think Galey's made exactly the right decision there."
Andrew Miller is a former editor of the Cricketer. @miller_cricket