Lancashire v Yorkshire, Old Trafford, 4th day August 3, 2009

Rudolph and Gale defy Lancashire

John Ward at Old Trafford

Yorkshire 181 and 354 for 4 (Rudolph 127, Gale 121, Bairstow 52) drew with Lancashire 489 for 5
Scorecard

Centuries from Jacques Rudolph and Andrew Gale on the final day enabled Yorkshire to escape with a draw, in the face of some disappointing Lancashire bowling. The overnight batsmen were not separated until mid-afternoon on a largely dry day with occasional brief outbreaks of rather weak sunshine. The Lancashire bowlers took only two wickets throughout, and Yorkshire ended the match 46 runs ahead with six wickets still in hand. The pitch also played a part ; like many others around the country, it should be officially classified as "too placid for first-class cricket."

Yorkshire began the day on 71 for 2, still 237 behind Lancashire and knowing they would have to bat through virtually the entire day to avoid a heavy defeat. In retrospect, the most crucial period was the first twenty minutes or so. Had Lancashire been able to break through then - as they nearly did - the whole course of the final day and the match might well have been different.

Yorkshire's obvious game plan, in the good old Roses match tradition, would have been for Rudolph and Gale to drop anchor and aim to bat out the day. In fact, they began rather as if they were the team more than 200 runs ahead and were looking for a quick declaration. Had this been the case, such a positive start, with a run-out attempt survived in the first over, would have been admirable. But it did not seem appropriate when Yorkshire were in such a dire position; it was more as if the approach was, "Well, we have lost this match, but we might as well enjoy ourselves while we're here." Both batsmen were intent on sweeping the spinner Gary Keedy right from the start, and lived dangerously.

But they survived, part of the reason being that Lancashire's bowling for the most part was innocuous. Keedy was tidy, but the danger was more in the strokes the batsmen were choosing rather than the diabolical skill of the bowler. The pacemen were inconsistent, and so many deliveries were off line that the batsmen could have kept the score ticking over without undue risk.

But, despite displaying what the likes of Arthur Mitchell would no doubt have dismissed as contemptible frivolity, they kept their concentration admirably, the runs kept flowing and the wickets did not fall. Sajid Mahmood bowled some troubling deliveries, but he is unlikely to become a regular England player unless he learns how to maintain the pressure on the batsman consistently for over after over, instead of letting them off the hook with regular loose deliveries. He is a highly talented player who at present is not fulfilling his potential.

Apart from rejected appeals for lbw or close catches, the only near-chance the batsmen offered before lunch was when Rudolph, on 64, chipped a ball just over square leg's head. Gale was the more aggressive of the two, taking 74 balls over his 50 to Rudolph's 113, and he also hit Keedy for a fine six over long-on. At lunch Yorkshire were 203 for 2, the first session of the match they could fairly claim to have won.

Gale caught Rudolph in the nineties, at one stage being on 97 while Rudolph had 99. He then hammered a ball from Kyle Hogg through the covers for four to reach his century first, his partner following soon afterwards. Gale's century took 141 balls and Rudolph's 209. It was a creditable return to form for the opener after a period of low scores and too many soft dismissals.

Rudolph survived a hard chance at short leg at 107, but Gale was the first to go, trapped lbw for 121 while playing across the line to Tom Smith, who was the most consistent of Lancashire's erratic quicks.. The pair had added 218 for the third wicket - and even now Yorkshire was still 51 runs behind. They still had not cleared off the arrears when Rudolph fell for 121 to a sharp catch at short leg as he turned a ball from Keedy round the corner. But Lancashire had now lost their self-belief and did not seem to consider a deviation from the scripted draw was possible.

Jonny Bairstow struggled at first, but showed the fighting spirit he has often demonstrated in his short career to hang in there, and at tea Yorkshire were 307 for 4 - still a run behind. Afterwards Bairstow batted with quiet fluency and reached his 50 off 79 balls, making up well after his slow start. When a light drizzle started just after 4.40, the umpires took the opportunity to end the match as a draw. Lancashire will regret the one that got away, but Yorkshire have even more to worry about, as their disturbingly unsuccessful season continues.

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