Young Bairstow impresses on debut
Somerset 230 and 88 for 1 (Trescothick 58*) require another 208 runs to beat Yorkshire 277 and 248 (Bairstow 82*, Willoughby 3-46)
The action has become hotter with every day of this engrossing match at Headingley, and the stage is set for a grandstand finish on the final day. Yorkshire, partly through misfortune but more due to their own lack of application, failed to set Somerset the inaccessible target they were aiming for, while the visitors finished the day with a sound platform in place from which to launch their bid for victory.
The morning session belonged to Somerset, after Yorkshire began the day at 26 for 1. Their fightback was led by the South African allrounder Alfonso Thomas, who bowled superbly from the Rugby Stand end in a prolonged spell. He beat Joe Sayers a couple of times in the opening over of the day with movement away from the bat, and after 17 minutes found the edge of the nightwatchman Matthew Hoggard's bat, removing him for 4. Sayers batted very dourly, taking 57 balls to reach double figures. Anthony McGrath was more aggressive, but Thomas reserved one of his best deliveries for the Yorkshire captain, producing a very fast ball that moved away slightly and spectacularly removed the off stump.
Andrew Gale appeared to be in fine form, driving fluently and taking only 14 balls to catch Sayers, who at that stage had 17. Then Justin Langer produced either a lucky gamble or a masterstroke of captaincy, whichever way one looks at it. He replaced Thomas with the erratic legspinner Michael Munday; Gale hammered him for two boundaries on the off side and then pulled a full toss powerfully to the midwicket boundary, or he would have done had not Peter Trego launched himself to his right to hold an amazing one-handed airborne catch. Gale had made 30 off 22 balls.
With the arrival of the debutant Jonathan Bairstow, Langer immediately returned to Thomas, but this time without success as the bowler was tiring. Charl Willoughby was not at his best before lunch, but Trego stepped into the breach with an impressive spell, including the wicket of Sayers, who turned a catch to midwicket. His 18 had taken 95 balls and Yorkshire were 92 for 5.
The next hero to take the stage was Bairstow. He began with great caution, in partnership with Gerard Brophy, but the latter was out just before lunch, lbw to a straight ball from Peter Stiff. The latter, however, did not bowl well, though he produced a sudden good ball that Tim Bresnan slashed into the slips; Marcus Trescothick knocked it up and then superbly grabbed the rebound. With Yorkshire 133 for 7, the game at this stage was very much like the traditional parson's egg: the Somerset bowling a mixture of good quality and real dross, some brilliant Somerset catches, and too many unworthy strokes from the Yorkshire batsmen as Bairstow dug in to play a very determined and mature innings.
Bairstow suddenly went up a few gears, reaching 25 with a most unexpected straight six off Stiff. He ran smoothly now to reach 50 off 108 balls, but enjoyed limited support from the tail until the last man David Wainwright joined him at 193 for 9. It is strange that Wainwright, having finished last season with a century against Sussex, should come in last for Yorkshire now, but he batted positively for a while, despite an escape in the slips on 16. Bairstow had already enjoyed the one escape of his innings on 51, just after Wainwright's arrival, a very difficult swirling chance beyond the covers. Suddenly Somerset's fine catching deserted them.
There were visions of a debut century for the red-haired batsman, but when he had 82 Wainwright had a wild slog off a rather wide ball from Munday and skied a catch, to close the innings for 248. Munday's bowling seems to inspire lunacy in the opposing batsmen, or so it has seemed in this match, where all four of his wickets have come from bad balls. Bairstow left the field to a standing ovation, the last wicket having added 55, a very significant number in a match boiling up to a possible close finish. Willoughby, bowling better during the afternoon, finished with three wickets.
Yorkshire themselves suffered a serious lapse when Gale at second slip was unable to hold a low chance from Trescothick when the latter had 12. Soon afterwards, though, Ajmal Shahzad in his first over beat Anul Suppiah for pace and knocked back his middle stump for 15. But the silly batting for the day was over, and the tide began to turn against Yorkshire once more. Wainwright, a crucial player as a left-arm spinner in the fourth innings, hurt his bowling hand and had to leave the field, while Brophy also went off with a hand injury, Bairstow taking over behind the stumps. Well as Shahzad and Bresnan bowled, they found Trescothick and Langer digging in and biding their time. The former began to flow more freely and reached his 50, off 85 balls, just before the close. The pair have done a fine job for the team, but there could be yet more twists in this fascinating match before the final ball is bowled.