Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire, Specsavers Championship Div 1, Trent Bridge, 4th day May 4, 2016

Absorbing contest ends with Yorkshire nine down

Nottinghamshire 261 (Mullaney 78, Brooks 4-74) and 348 (Read 101, Broad 55, Patel 51, Patterson 4-57) drew with Yorkshire 290 (Lees 92, Plunkett 51, Ball 4-57) and 257 for 9 (Lees 107, Gurney 4-53)
Scorecard

Steven Patterson was ninth man out with two balls of the match remaining © Getty Images

It remains one of the mysteries to those immune to the charms of cricket that spectators can be glued to a contest that lasts four or five days that still ends without a victor.

But here was a perfect example of the charms of long-form cricket. A match that both sides might have won and lost on several occasions eventually came down to the final delivery with Yorkshire's No. 11, Jack Brooks, somehow denying the No. 1 rated bowler in Test cricket, Stuart Broad.

But that is only a fraction of the story. A match that appeared firmly in Yorkshire's grasp on the third afternoon - when Nottinghamshire lost their fifth second-innings wicket with a lead of just 69 - appeared as if only Nottinghamshire could win it by the time their captain was last out after completing a brilliant century just after lunch on day four. There was no way Yorkshire could chase 320 in 53 overs.

But no-one told Yorkshire that. Perhaps emboldened by winning the last two Championship titles, perhaps enlightened to new possibilities by the development of T20, perhaps simply inspired by the presence within their side of several high-quality batsmen, Yorkshire first established a platform and then launched a glorious assault upon the target that, for 30 minutes or so, made the impossible appear just about within reach.

The platform was built by Alex Lees and Gary Ballance. Poor Adam Lyth had, for the second time in the match, been the victim of a decision that could easily have gone the other way and, with the pitch continuing to provide assistance - not least variable bounce - for the seamers, batting was not straightforward.

Lees, strong off his legs and through point, impressed for the second time in the match with an innings that thwarted this fine attack and demonstrated his abilities as an opening batsman. Ballance battled, too, though if he is in a straight contest with Ian Bell for a Test place, Bell's game looks in significantly better condition.

But it was Root's arrival that sparked the acceleration. Skipping down the wicket to the seamers and making room to punish the spinner, he signalled a change of approach that transformed a game that seemed to be petering out.

With each boundary, the equation appeared more achievable. Yorkshire required 176 off the last 20 overs and 147 when Jonny Bairstow came in with 16.2 overs remaining. By the time Lees made his hundred they required 98 from 11.

Bairstow was simply brilliant. Whatever his international record, he is developing into a giant at county level where he has gained a presence at the crease that was previously familiar in the likes of Mark Ramprakash, Darren Lehmann and Graeme Hick. At one stage he lapped a delivery from a yard outside off stump from Broad for six; an impossibly good, ridiculously good stroke. Nottinghamshire started to look nervous.

But Bairstow's dismissal, caught on the deep cover boundary with 93 still required from the final 10 overs, precipitated a sharp decline. Yorkshire lost six wickets for 26 runs as Lees and Plunkett fell for the cause then David Willey and Andrew Gale were defeated in their attempt to bat out time.

Harry Gurney, a vastly improved bowler, claimed four wickets in 18 balls for only eight runs and Jake Ball demonstrated his considerable limited-overs qualities with an array of well-directed yorkers. Suddenly, with 20 deliveries remaining and eight wickets down, only Nottinghamshire could win. Lees later admitted he couldn't watch the final rites.

Broad, without a wicket in the game, was brought back for the last two overs from the Radcliffe Road End. While he could not dislodge the admirably solid Adil Rashid, he did trap Steven Patterson with one that kept low from the fourth ball of the last over.

That left Broad to Brooks for the final two balls of the match. With men crouched around the bat, Brooks edged his first delivery along the ground for four before the final ball beat his nervous prod and thumped into his thigh pad. The match was drawn. Both sides take 10 points from the game and Nottinghamshire go one point clear at the top of the table. Who knows what might have happened had the weather not curtailed this match by 68 overs.

But even that barely scrapes the surface of a wonderfully engaging game. It doesn't do justice to Chris Read's magnificent century - the 25th of his first-class career - to Broad's 44-ball counter-attacking half-century, to their stand of 104 in 20 overs, to Yorkshire's modest bowling in the morning or the fact that Nottinghamshire's last four wickets were able to add 197 runs.

It doesn't allow time to consider why Read - averaging 46.01 for Nottinghamshire in first-class cricket since the last of his Tests in early 2007 - played so little international cricket or remark about the peripheral part played by the one overseas player required in the match.

For this was a game filled to bursting with fine cricket and notable performances. It should not only have provided excellent preparation for the Test season but, played in front of Sky's TV cameras, it should also have acted as an excellent advert for the many virtues of the County Championship. Cricket - any sort of cricket - really doesn't get much better than this.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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