Essex 309 (Westley 77, Bess 3-45) drew with Yorkshire 390 and 107 for 1 (Lyth 56*, Ballance 51*)

Gary Ballance's chances of a century in six successive Yorkshire matches came to grief just before tea on the final day at Emerald Headingley with an unexpected cloudburst that prematurely ended a stalemate that had long since lost all other significance.

That at least consigned one of Yorkshire's more confusing statistics to history. Ballance is the first Yorkshire batsman to have scored hundreds in five successive Yorkshire matches, although Len Hutton did it on seven successive occasions in Yorkshire matches in which he played in 1947 and 1948.

Such distinctions will not remotely concern Ballance, who was 51 not out when the deluge brought an early tea. His only ambition will be to extend a prolific Championship season, which has brought 668 runs at 83.5, to force his way into consideration for the Ashes series. If happenstance means James Vince gets an opportunity with England in the World Cup, and he makes runs, Ballance's chances of adding to his 23 Tests, the last of them against South Africa in Nottingham, will further recede.

One senses in any case that Ballance is out of vogue, to be ranked alongside avocado bathroom suites, lava lamps and hipster beards. He will have to play doubly well to get noticed.

(Incidentally, the suggestion that hipster beards are out of fashion was a cruel misrepresentation and if any hipsters happened to have been drawn to a piece about an ultimately pointless county cricket match, one can assume they have already left in search of reassurance).

From the moment on the third evening that Peter Siddle rose, half asleep, from a bench in the Essex dressing room, where he had been vaguely watching India's World Cup match against South Africa, and roused himself to save the follow-on, this contest needed enterprise from both captains to salvage a worthwhile finish.

But Siddle and Sam Cook blithely extended their last-wicket stand for a further 70 minutes, and those who had hoped for better began to stare staunchly into mid-distance. Championship spectators no longer religiously turn to the newspaper crossword to help them through the game's longeurs (a shame because it was always an interesting clue to their political affiliations) and many remain allergic to mobile phones, especially during hours of play.

In all, Siddle and Cook put on 86 in 25 overs, every run making the slim chance of a positive declaration increasingly starved of possibility. Siddle finished with 60 off 119 balls, his best score in his second season as Essex's overseas player, at which point he fell leg-before to Steve Patterson, while Cook's career-best unbeaten 37 off 74 included a pulled six off Ben Coad.

When Yorkshire started their second innings, they led by 81 with 76 overs remaining in the day. Many sides have contrived finishes from such positions, but not often on such a sound surface, and not often Yorkshire.

Andrew Gale, the coach, said with justification that the pitch had flattened out. Yorkshire remain unbeaten, and stable, but have yet to pull off the sort of thrilling result that identifies them as definite title contenders. Now 25 points behind leaders Somerset, they face Surrey at Guildford on Monday; the defending champions are yet to win in five matches.

Yorkshire lost their debutant opener, Will Fraine, for a duck, but were on 107 for 1 from 42.5 overs when the rain tumbled from the sky. Essex's main concern will surround the fitness of their seam bowler Jamie Porter, who is the catalyst for so many of their better moments, and who limped off during his 10th over.