Rudolph and McGrath pound Worcestershire
Yorkshire 394 for 3 (Rudolph 194*, McGrath 120) v Worcestershire
It was a bad day for Michael Vaughan, but a glorious one for his team-mates Jacques Rudolph and Anthony McGrath. Both of these former Test players recorded fine centuries as Yorkshire ran up a total of almost 400 against a toothless Worcestershire attack, and put on a double-century partnership for the third wicket.
The morning was bright and sunny at Headingley, but the rain of the previous day had taken its toll and the outfield was initially unfit for play. An early lunch was taken and play finally began at 1.30pm, despite the presence at the ground of that renowned rainmaker, Dickie Bird. The sun still shone intermittently and this made batting conditions better than on the first day, apart from the outfield, which was still very slow.
Yorkshire continued from their overnight score of 123 for 1. All eyes were on Vaughan, after his omission from the Test squad, but the sun did not shine for the former England captain. He got off the mark, then drove Ashley Noffke with his usual regal splendour through the covers for four. But the bowler replied with a superb delivery that had Vaughan fencing and edging to the keeper for 5.
In came McGrath, and from the start the Yorkshire captain showed that he meant business. Some good bowling from Noffke and Matt Mason did not daunt him, though he slashed and missed a couple of times. Mason enjoyed a good if unsuccessful opening spell, but on the whole the Worcestershire bowling was again inconsistent. Bar the occasional good over or two, they were unable to string together a whole spell of sustained aggression, and as a result the pressure was never on the batsmen for long. McGrath made the bowlers pay, pulling Imran Arif for a powerful six over midwicket, and Rudolph, the dominant figure on the previous day, was now content to play second fiddle to his captain - for a while at least.
Chris Whelan had McGrath in trouble with one excellent over, but again he was unable to maintain the pressure for long enough, and the batsman ran to his 50 off 81 balls with another pull for six. Rudolph, sedate as he approached three figures, steered the ball skilfully backward of point for four to reach his century (182 balls). The century partnership soon followed, McGrath having registered 61 of them; it took only 25 overs, a considerable achievement on such a slow outfield.
After tea came the second new ball, but McGrath only unleashed another powerful attack on the hapless bowlers. Worcestershire now began visibly to lose heart, and their over-rate declined. Rudolph finally decided to come to the party, as Duncan Fletcher would have said, and began to outscore McGrath, who was approaching his century. Rudolph on 142 drove Gareth Batty for a straight six into the building site and then ran to 150 (257 balls) with a two through the covers. The next landmark was McGrath's century, which took him 166 balls.
Yorkshire's only problem now was how to time their impending declaration. McGrath, probably with that in mind, hit out and was caught at extra cover off Daryl Mitchell for 120. He faced 130 balls and hit 13 fours and two sixes; the stand was worth 237 and Rudolph was now on 181. Also possible was a fifth batting point for Yorkshire; they needed 33 for the point off the final nine overs available, but fell nine short. Rudolph was approaching 200 with caution and Andrew Gale was settling in slowly; Yorkshire might have done better had they sent in a more aggressive batsman at this stage. Only in these final overs could Yorkshire be criticised today; perhaps they simply forgot that bonus points now apply to 120 overs rather than 130 this season.
With Rudolph unworried about reaching 200 before the close, it is possible that Yorkshire may not declare overnight and allow him to reach the landmark. With a dicey weather forecast, Yorkshire will be looking to their bowlers to win the match in quick time.