Yorkshire tail cling on for draw
Yorkshire 457 (Rudolph 146) and 170 for 9 (Lyth 52, Gough 32) drew with Kent 227 and 433 (Dexter 105, van Jaarsveld 73)
It was a thrilling finish after all at Scarborough, thanks to the incompetence of the home side in chasing a none too difficult target. Only the fighting spirit of the two old warhorses, Darren Gough and Matthew Hoggard, with the bat saved Yorkshire from defeat, along with the lack of consistency of Kent's bowlers who almost had the match handed them on a plate. The match ended with the Kent fielders clustered around the last pair of Yorkshire batsmen, but their bowlers were unable to take the crucial tenth wicket that would have given them one of the most remarkable of victories, after trailing by 230 runs on the first innings.
Kent carried on in the morning from their second-innings score of 273 for 5, 43 runs in the lead. The sun was shining and the crowd, though smaller than on previous days, was still approaching 2,000. It appeared to be the perfect setting for Yorkshire to wrap up the match.
Rana Naved was unable to repeat his magic of the previous evening, and was no-balled several times for overstepping, but he still looked a much better bowler than he had done 18 hours earlier. For twenty minutes Yorkshire used the old ball, failed to take a wicket, and then opted for a new one. Almost immediately Geraint Jones, who had started the day briskly, was yorked by Dion Kruis for 25. Soon afterwards the other overnight batsmen, Martin van Jaarsveld, was brilliantly caught at second slip by Anthony McGrath off the same bowler, for a quiet but invaluable 73. Kent were 326 for 7, with all their specialist batsmen gone, and the match appeared to be Yorkshire's for the taking.
Then came the partnership which, though not particularly significant at first glance, in effect changed the match. It nearly never happened: with 10 to his account Ryan McLaren popped up a ball gently towards mid-on, but the diving fielder could not quite get there in time. Then he and James Tredwell played sensible cricket, scoring freely off the loose deliveries, and the bowlers were unable to separate them. The stroke of the stand was a superb flat six by Tredwell over long-on off Adil Rashid.
They added a crucial 68 runs for the eighth wicket before Darren Gough brought himself on just before lunch, and did the trick, having an indecisive McLaren caught at the wicket for 35. After lunch Tredwell reached a well-merited 50 off 71 balls before, four runs later, groping forward to be caught at slip off Rashid. Amjad Khan applied the long handle briefly for 21 not out before the innings closed for 433. Naved took 4 for 86, while there were two wickets each for Hoggard and Kruis; apart from Naved's inspired spell, the overall quality of the bowling was disappointing.
Yorkshire's target of 204 in a minimum of 51 overs, exactly four an over, was not as comfortable as they would have wished, but should not have been a serious problem in the prevailing good batting conditions. But they were in trouble from the start. Michael Vaughan looked totally out of touch with his game and a candidate for a winter off; he faced 14 balls without scoring before he was out to a low catch at second slip off Robbie Joseph. Within minutes, Andrew Gale (9) was lbw to the same bowler, trying to work a straight ball to leg, and McGrath (3) caught at slip off a ball from Khan that reared at him. Yorkshire were 25 for 3.
Jacques Rudolph began in superb style, hitting Joseph for two fours in the first over he faced, while his fellow left-hander Adam Lyth also played some fluent and confident strokes, especially through the covers. Yorkshire now appeared to be well on course again, despite some rather risky running between the wickets - but with the total on 60, McLaren went round the wicket and surprised Rudolph (24) with a ball that came back and bowled him.
Kent were now the side on top, believing they could win. Gerard Brophy (14) threw his wicket away with a rustic heave at Darren Steven's first ball, skying an easy catch to mid-on, and the part-time bowler also removed Rashid (0), lunging at a ball to be caught at first slip. Despite being 102 for 6, Yorkshire were up with the required scoring rate, helped by a number of wides and no-balls.
Of the major batsmen, only Lyth remained. He did his best, reaching 50 off 78 balls, but the pressure was too great for his lack of experience, and he was out for 52, flashing a catch to first slip off Joseph. This was just after the start of the final hour; 135 for 8 and, considering the lack of Yorkshire grit shown thus far, the end appeared to be inevitable.
Gough and Hoggard did delay it most creditably for 45 minutes, the latter all grim defence although playing and missing frequently, while the captain swung lustily at times but with more discrimination than some of his top order. It took a fine catch by Rob Key at backward point to hold a powerful forcing stroke off Khan and remove him for a gallant 32.
With five overs remaining and last man Kruis at the crease and looking shaky, Kent still could be favoured to win, but they could not quite bowl well enough to complete the job. Too many deliveries were wasted, to tell the truth, during the entire innings, although there were good spells, and had they won, they would have owed their victory more to Yorkshire's pathetic batting rather than their own skill; in addition, their fielding at times was fallible. Keen but inconsistent must be the verdict.
Had they won, they would actually have risen to the top of the championship table, which only emphasizes how even the top division is, where no county has really looked truly deserving of a championship title. But Yorkshire remain in danger, having been forced to save at the last ditch a match they should certainly have won, and unless Darren Gough can pull his ragged team together in a hurry, his illustrious career may well end with his county's demotion.