Whisper it, but Yorkshire need Lancashire's help

Yorkshire 145 and 57 for 3 trail Somerset 390 (Gregory 73*, Trescothick 73, Allenby 50, Sidebottom 5-51) by 188 runs

There is a silver lining for Yorkshire supporters in this tale of woe, but only those with a solid disposition will read down far enough to find refuge in it. It involves Lancashire coming to the rescue in the nick of time when the White Rose forces are beleaguered, their Championship challenge in tatters. Suitably for the history of Roses conflict, Lancashire are instead showing signs of treachery. Call up Max Wigley, the Yorkshire chaplain. Perhaps a hurried marriage or two can be arranged to unite the rival Houses and ensure Red Rose loyalty.

Requiring help from Lancashire is not easily digestible, but there is no other way, not now. This was another dire day for Yorkshire, the second in succession, against a Somerset side who have been transformed from potential relegation fodder to surprise Championship challengers. They are having fun at Headingley, losing themselves in the delight of being part of the Championship shake-up.

Having established a first-innings lead of 245, Somerset reduced Yorkshire to 57 for 3 in the 22 overs by the close. Alex Lees, so authoritative in victory against Durham last week, failed for the second time in the match when Jim Allenby held a low catch off Lewis Gregory at first slip. Gary Ballance had his off stump plucked out, driving at Tim Groenewald; Andrew Gale suffered the same fate. Gale had called overnight for "Yorkshire grit" after they had been dismissed first time around for 145, but most of it seemed to have settled in the batsman's eyes.

For a positive Yorkshire image, the final stages of Somerset's innings serves a purpose. It involved Ryan Sidebottom forcing an exhausted body into a chase to the long-off boundary, pursuing an off drive from Groenewald against the legspin of Adil Rashid and turning a four into a three with a desperate dive. At the time, Somerset's lead was 236, the temperature was in the high 20s and Sidebottom, who had bowled manfully and skilfully, was as good as spent.

When Groenewald was stumped off Rashid soon afterwards, Sidebottom returned exemplary figures of 5 for 51 in 22 overs. He took half Yorkshire's wickets and he bowled seven of their 11 maidens. He was their greatest threat until the second new ball when Somerset finally broke him. Of the rest of the attack, the coach Jason Gillespie gently suggested: "We probably haven't been as ruthless or as disciplined as we could be."

It was Sidebottom who gave Yorkshire hope before lunch. Somerset were only 38 behind with nine wickets intact at start of play, but Sidebottom struck with two wickets in five balls, having Chris Rogers caught at second slip for 63 and then bowling James Hildreth with an inswinger as he played no stroke. He even smashed Allenby's bat in two before he had scored, and when Marcus Trescothick's serene 73 came to an end as he defended Liam Plunkett into his stumps, Somerset had still not killed the game at lunch.

Yorkshire summoned another spirited effort after the break. Peter Trego was first put under pressure by the hostility of Plunkett and then removed by a lifter from Sidebottom. The pitch offered a touch more help than usual on the second day, but overhead conditions were no longer as favourable as they had been on Monday.

Each Somerset batsman had the bit in his teeth in turn. The dash of Trego, who reached 1,000 first-class runs for the first time, was followed by the earnestness of Allenby, the power of Craig Overton and, most laudably, a career-best 73 when most needed - only his second Championship fifty of the season - from Lewis Gregory. By the time Sidebottom added two tail-end wickets, Somerset were commandingly placed. Sixty-one runs in 10.5 overs spilled from the second new ball.

Yorkshire's defeat against Middlesex at Scarborough was an indication that they faced a daunting challenge to win a third successive Championship and here, as at Scarborough, it has been hard to advance a case that they deserve it. Their top-order batting cannot repeatedly fail and expect to be rescued.

But, as indicated, there remains an escape route even in defeat and it depends on the other lot on t'other wide of t'Pennines. If Yorkshire cannot beat Somerset it is advantageous for them to lose, not draw. But such a calculation depends upon Lancashire stoutly holding Middlesex to a draw at Old Trafford.

When Lancashire lost half their side for 32 in Manchester, the frustration was palpable. "Bloody Lancashire," somebody said. Any self-respecting Yorkshire cricket follower spotting a red rose growing in a garden east of the Pennines will be obliged under cover of darkness to pull it up as a weed. A few Villages in Bloom entrants could discover some bare patches in the prize display.

The theory goes like this. A Yorkshire draw would put Somerset, who lie third, out of the Championship race - and Middlesex, even if they only draw at Old Trafford, would draw with more bonus points and therefore would have enough of a lead to lobby for a draw pitch when the counties meet in the final match at Lord's next week. But a Yorkshire defeat would leave Somerset still in contention and Middlesex, suddenly fearful of a Lord's stalemate in case Somerset sneak the title, would be desperate for a result pitch, giving Yorkshire the opportunity for a victory that could steal the title at the last.

The only weakness of this theory is that Mick Hunt, the veteran Lord's head groundsman, tends to do as he wishes, but it's a theory nevertheless.

Laughable? A 100-1 chance at best? The alternative is a staggering third-day recovery that would go down in Yorkshire history. In the last two days, the Championship has begun to flutter its eyes upon Middlesex. Gillespie's four-year reign is likely to end with disappointment in all three trophies.