Yorkshire survive despite Onions' five
Yorkshire 272 and 193 for 7 (Onions 5-56) drew with Durham 362 and 303 for 5 dec
It is an excitement unknown in one-day cricket but still loved by the traditionalist: the sight of a team fighting the odds trying to salvage a hard-earned draw. Yorkshire, regaining their pride after a dismal third day against Durham, fought their way through the tense final day to achieve this, despite the superb bowling of Graham Onions.
At the start of the day Yorkshire, needing another 391, but that was never an option and Yorkshire's mindset was clear from the start they battened down for the draw. The Durham bowlers were able to find little swing or seam movement and only the noble Onions really impressed, as the others, Steve Harmison included, were a little below par for a team eagerly pressing for victory in their opening Championship match. Onions was undaunted by the hard work - of which he had plenty throughout the day in taking 5 for 56 off 28 overs - and produced several fine deliveries, one of which moved in and bowled the experienced Jacques Rudolph for 16, after he and Joe Sayers had made a very solid start to the day.
This brought in Michael Vaughan, whose chief preoccupation seemed to be to play for the needs of his team ahead of his own England ambitions. He subdued his natural attacking flair and concentrated on occupying the crease for as long as possible. When he finally reached double figures, with a typically handsome back-foot cover drive for four, he had faced 45 balls. Only 57 runs were scored in the pre-lunch session but, most importantly for Yorkshire, only one wicket had fallen.
Briefly the scoring rate quickened after lunch, but this was mainly due to some loose bowling, and when Harmison went round the wicket and Durham tightened up, the rate again dropped below two an over. Sayers faced 112 balls for his gallant 30, before Onions slanted a ball across him, producing an involuntary nudge to the keeper. In his next over Vaughan fell for 20 to a similar dismissal, fishing fatally at a ball just outside his off stump to further dent his hopes of a Test recall when the squad is named next week.
With two crucial wickets falling in quick succession, this was the critical moment of the day. Could Yorkshire rebuild - or was this the vital match-winning breakthrough for Durham? Yorkshire it was who grasped the moment. Anthony McGrath and Andrew Gale stood in the breach, presenting the broadest of Yorkshire bats and taking runs only as they offered themselves. They added a solid 44 before Gale tried to cut a ball from Liam Plunkett, brought on late, that was too close to him and was caught at first slip.
After tea the light worsened rapidly. It was a sickening moment for McGrath, on 26 and fighting for his side's survival, when a superb delivery from Onions out of the gloom found the edge of his bat and was brilliantly caught low to his left by Michael Di Venuto at second slip. Immediately the umpires took the players off the field and, with a bit of rain, nine crucial overs were lost.
Gerard Brophy has a reputation for inconsistency in a crisis, and lived up to it on this occasion. Having played quite responsibly for 27, he then threw his wicket away with a needless hook that presented long leg with a straight-forward catch. Durham, with 17 overs to go, were still in with a good chance now with four more wickets to take.
Tim Bresnan and Adil Rashid, two who have done well in tight situations before, stood firm until Bresnan had a rush of blood to the head, swung at a ball from Onions just outside his off stump and was given out caught at the wicket. He was the sixth Yorkshire batsman in the innings to reach 20 while failing to pass 30. The mantle of saviour passed to Rashid. Harmison cut his pace somewhat but was not accurate enough to force the batsman to play often enough and with Steve Patterson, another youngster hanging in with determination, Yorkshire managed to salvage a respectable draw in a tense finish.
Perhaps, though, it is a fault of modern county cricket that such a finish should be possible. Fifty years ago, when players often bowled more overs in three days than they now do in four, top-class spin bowlers would expect to bowl a team out almost every time on crumbling pitches. Today, pitches rarely crumble and spinners are rarely top-class unless from overseas. The game has lost something, but we can be grateful that the exciting draw is still a possibility.