Rudolph and McGrath script gritty fightback
Yorkshire 178 and 272 for 2 v Nottinghamshire 545 for 7 dec
Yorkshire dismissed any notion that their resolve is weakening by staging a gritty fightback against Nottinghamshire, a determined partnership between Jacques Rudolph and Anthony McGrath subjecting the visitors to a frustrating afternoon and evening.
Having seen their hosts bat so disappointingly in the first innings, giving rise to suggestions, after one win in six matches, that the title aspirations of Andrew Gale's young side might have been somewhat optimistic, Nottinghamshire had begun to wonder if a three-day win might be on the cards.
Such a result could have had a deflating effect on Yorkshire. But the strength of Gale's team is their batting line-up, led by three of the season's most consistent run-scorers, and their poor performance on Tuesday was out of character. The team talk in the dressing room before the start of day three would have been about application, concentration and remembering how they had reached the top of the table and Rudolph and McGrath clearly paid attention.
On a pitch that has no great pace but is playing easily for the batsmen, Rudolph compiled his third hundred of the season and passed 1,000 first-class runs for the campaign for the fourth year in a row. Only his teammate, Adam Lyth, has more runs in the First Division, although Somerset's James Hildreth is close behind and pipped McGrath to be third to 1,000.
On the whole, it was an impressive effort by the South African, although there were some watching from the top balcony in the old pavilion who might have had mixed feelings. The gathering of former players there included many of the surviving members of the Yorkshire team that won seven Championships between 1959 and 1968, the last Yorkshire team to enjoy an era of dominance in domestic cricket and, of course, one that was made up entirely of players born in the county. There is certainly a desire among traditionalists to return to those days.
Not that there is any ill-will towards Rudolph, whose commitment to his adopted home has been nothing less than total since he arrived, somewhat controversially, as a Kolpak signing in 2007. And there were no complaints about his role in a partnership of 211 in 65 overs with McGrath.
There is some uncertainty over his future with the county, however, following reports in South Africa concerning suggestions that he might change his status again to return to international cricket, which would mean he could remain with Yorkshire only as an overseas player.
Rudolph said he was "aware of the reports" but declined to make any comment.
Nottinghamshire did not bowl nearly as well as they had on day one, when Ryan Sidebottom in particular posed continuous problems. But Rudolph, on the other hand, offered them little encouragement. He had a stroke of luck moments after moving into three figures, Ally Brown juggling a chance off Samit Patel's bowling at slip but putting it down, but otherwise treated the ball with the utmost respect on all occasions when it was not there to be hit.
On the occasions when it was, however, he missed his chance rarely, gathering 19 fours before, as the shadows lengthened and Nottinghamshire took the new ball, he drove forcefully at a ball from Darren Pattinson outside off stump but managed only to deflect it low off the edge to gully, where Andre Adams took his second catch of the day.
His first, taken one-handed with a reflex movement, accounted for Adam Lyth as the only other wicket to fall, although nightwatchman Steve Patterson could easily have been a third after negotiating a difficult three overs at the close. McGrath, meanwhile, who finished unbeaten on 78, was not keen to put himself in the firing line after taking a blow on the hand from Sidebottom.
Earlier, Nottinghamshire had batted on for 20 minutes at the start of the morning session, which was time enough for David Hussey to stretch his double-hundred to 251 not out, and Paul Franks to fall to an excellent catch by Jonathan Bairstow at deep point before the declaration came at 545 for 7, giving them a lead of 367.
It is down to 95 going into the last day and Nottinghamshire may still not have to bat again, given a forecast for cloud cover and showers. But Yorkshire seem to have set themselves squarely on securing a draw and there is enough batting left to make that a realistic objective.