Durham 205 for 4 (Borthwick 53) trail Yorkshire 460 (Lees 132, Ballance 71, Lehmann 58) by 255 runs
Books half-price in the pavilion and the trees half as green as they were in June's lush carelessness. For not much longer will drinkers at The Original Oak or The Skyrack spill out onto Headingley Lane in the half-light of what might masquerade as an August evening.
The abundant warmth on the second day of this vital game could not disguise the sense of gentle closure. That could be seen as much in the first yellowing of leaves on Shire Oak Road as in the announcement of new season fashions in Briggate and the Headrow. To paraphrase Louis MacNeice: Close and slow, summer is ending in Yorkshire. Six more days of this stuff at Headingley, then four at Lord's, then...
But what a ten days they could be. The intensity of the occasion has overpowered the soft incipience of change throughout this game and so it was on the second afternoon when Yorkshire's triumphant quartet of seamers strove to wreak havoc after their batsmen had made 460 in the first innings. As so often in September, poignancy was accompanied by climax and Yorkshire's attempt to steal an advantage over Middlesex in the run-in for the title.
Just as news of Nick Gubbins' attempt to sink his roots into the Trent Bridge turf reached Headingley during the second session of this game, so Yorkshire supporters knew that any rattle of Durham wickets would be heard in Nottingham. The players may insulate themselves from their rivals' progress - does anyone quite believe that, by the way? - but spectators are not bound by such a self-denying ordinance.
Yet in two sessions there was little to disconcert James Franklin's men. The first ten overs of Durham's reply to Yorkshire's formidable 460 featured boundaries, as Gale's seamers overpitched, and one notable escape as third slip, Jake Lehmann, dropped Keaton Jennings off Ryan Sidebottom before the batsman had scored. This was bad enough, given that Jennings is the leading scorer in the Specsavers County Championship, but even had this been a beer match and the reprieved batsman been wearing one pad, a monocle and a beatific smile, such errors are still likely to send Sidebottom over the edge of reason.
Four overs later Jennings skied the same bowler towards the vacant cover area and Sidebottom railed against the world as he grumped down to long leg. More iniquity unpunished; more sinfulness unchastised. Slumped shoulders, dark mutterings and wrath.
Yet in its way those lax ten overs rather set the tone for the rest of a day in which wickets punctuated partnerships rather than falling in the batches beloved of Andrew Gale's attack. Those stands were sometimes risky and pitted with hazardous drives - Jennings and Mark Stoneman added 56 in 10.3 overs before Stoneman nicked Brooks to Lyth - but they took Durham to 205 for 4 at the close and left Yorkshire with plenty of work to do, even before the new ball becomes due in ten overs' time.
Jason Gillespie identified his team's cricket as lacking "ruthlessness" on the second afternoon and the Yorkshire coach may find few people ready to give him an argument. Gale's four seamers hit better lengths as Durham innings progressed but one rarely felt that runs were really hard to come by. The only other wicket to fall in the afternoon session was that of Jennings, who nicked Steve Patterson to Hodd when he had made 40 but even the Beverley time-signal had conceded 14 runs off his first four balls before leaking fewer in his next ten overs.
Patterson at least had the fillip of taking one of the two wickets to fall in the final session of the day when Scott Borthwick's defensive push only gave Lyth his second catch. But by then Borthwick had batted 152 minutes for 53 runs and had played with increasing assurance after being given something of a working over by Tim Bresnan. Even the loss of Paul Collingwood for 6, the Durham captain being bowled by Bresnan when his inside edge disturbed the leg bail, did not produce the collapse most spectators wanted.
Instead, Jack Burnham, who was also dropped by Lehmann, this time off Jack Brooks, made his way to 34 by the close in company with Graham Clark, another batsman who is still discovering what cricket in the First Division is all about. Collingwood gone but Durham still defiant: it was as if a torch was being passed on.
So Yorkshire were frustrated and all of this after a morning which was something of a bring-an-innings party as the champions' last five wickets added 119 runs to their side's total. As has become routine, almost all the later batsmen made some contribution to the general revelry with only Steve Patterson being dismissed in single figures. Although Tim Bresnan could do more than double his overnight 11 before losing his off stump when playing down the wrong line to Chris Rushworth, Andy Hodd batted well once again before rather giving his wicket to Barry McCarthy in the search for a fifth bonus point.
That search failed by just eight runs but Azeem Rafiq's stylish 45 and Brooks' less aesthetically appealing 36 ensured that Durham would have to bat for something like a day even to avoid the follow-on. In many respects, it was the sort of invitation to create mayhem that Sidebottom and Brooks, party people both, in their fashion, rarely pass up.