Yorkshire face grim fight for survival as grim season reaches climax
Zafar Gohar stars on spinning deck as rain at Edgbaston provides vital safety net
Gloucestershire 190 (Bracey 71, Fisher 4-45) & 204 for 6 (Taylor 67*, Price 54*) lead Yorkshire 183 (Kohler-Cadmore 46, Lyth 44, Gohar 5-40) by 211 runs
Relegation is what many critics wished upon Yorkshire as the Azeem Rafiq racism allegations were at their height a year ago. That sanction never came from the ECB, or at least it hasn't yet, so it would at least quell the argument if they went down anyway.
That relegation still cannot be discounted. The best news on the second day for Yorkshire was that it was raining in Birmingham. They are approaching the end of the season in forlorn mood. If Warwickshire don't beat Hampshire at Edgbaston, they will remain in Division One. But if Warwickshire somehow manufacture a 18-point win in a rain-hit game, then a Gloucestershire win at Headingley would send them into Division Two.
If this Championship summer has been disappointing on the field, it has been a colossal public relations failure off it. What should have been a summer of healing, with the promotion of a united new vision for a confident, multi-racial Yorkshire, has been instead been a taciturn summer that allows resentments to fester. Disrepute charges announced by the ECB against the county and seven individuals in June, and due to be considered this autumn, hang heavily.
A new coaching staff has done well to hold body and soul together in a young dressing room. But they will not rest easily with Gloucestershire holding a second-innings lead of 211 with five second-innings remaining. The pitch might be flattening out a shade, but a target beyond 270 will be a stretch, especially considering the frailty of a top six which possesses only two seasoned batters, one of whom, Tom Kohler-Cadmore, is heading to Somerset at the end of the week and whose gung-ho batting approach in the first innings did not give the perception he is mentally attuned to a backs-to-the-wall relegation fight.
Koher-Cadmore would contend that that is how he plays and that his 46 from 45 balls represented Yorkshire's top score in a sub-standard batting display. Jack Taylor's adventure also served Gloucestershire well as he made 67 from 78 in a sixth-wicket stand of 124 from 34 after Gloucestershire had lost half their side for 74. But Kohler-Cadmore, who came in at No 4, has pretensions as an opening batter. It is safe to assume he does not model his game on Geoffrey Boycott.
He did have the decency to sound a little guilty afterwards. "How I got out today, it was annoying. I thought it was a bad ball, but I top-edged it and it went straight up," he said. "I want to leave the club on a high and finish the season with a good positive result. It's quite slow and hard to take wickets. We have should have put ourselves in a better position with the bat. It wasn't a 180 or 190 pitch, or whatever we ended up with. It's a decent surface."
On a chilly day, the sense among a meagre crowd was that the cricket was to be endured, not enjoyed. There is little conviviality around Headingley, no light-hearted sense of optimism. No wonder romantic souls prefer to finish the season at places like Worcester and Canterbury. For all the constant stream of world-class talent for England, until such ingrained attitudes change, cricket will never be entirely pleasurable here, unless trophies are being won. Jason Gillespie managed both pleasure and trophies - an extraordinary feat.
Positions on the Rafiq affair are entrenched. Stances on both sides are too often based on general prejudices. If anything, Yorkshire have allowed attitudes to harden. Most of the 16 summarily sacked after signing a confidential letter privately questioning Yorkshire's handling of Rafiq's allegations have won out-of-court settlements for unfair dismissal, with only Wayne Morton's medical group still involved in a legal process.
All this led the Yorkshire Post to carry a headline last week advising Yorkshire's chair, Kamlesh Patel, to "Clear Your Desk". That would rather assume he has filled his desk in the first place. Patel set the initial tone, and how, but since then he has been an occasional presence and he has hinted that he will stand down soon after Yorkshire finally get round to appointing a chief executive. Meanwhile, those in charge of day-to-day operations - supposedly bearers, however temporary, of the New Yorkshire flame - prefer to remain low key.
Zafar Gohar, the Pakistan left-arm spinner, and arguably the best pound-for-pound overseas player in the Championship (not that the pound is worth very much anymore), claimed five of the seven morning wickets as Yorkshire subsided from 80 for three overnight to 183 all out. He now has 43 Championship wickets at 29.44, a shrewd signing whom Gloucestershire would do well to retain.
Gohar struck with his first ball of the second day, interrupting Kohler-Cadmore's shoot-the-breeze approach when he mis-pulled a short ball to midwicket on the way to figures of five for 40 from 14 overs. Thirty-two runs had come in less than four overs, but that was the height of Yorkshire's success.
Gohar then picked off the ingenue, Harry Duke, lbw as he pushed forward. Jonny Tattersall, whom Gloucestershire respect as a fine player of spin after his loan spell last season, edged an excellent delivery to slip off the back foot on 33. Jordan Thompson looks deadbeat after a long season - lacking finesse with bat and ball - and was also caught at slip. Ben Coad was a No.10 out slogging down the ground when a highly capable batter, Matthew Fisher, needed more intelligent support, a criminal abdication of responsibility.
At least Steve Patterson, a captain who has not been retained, got a deserved guard of honour from Gloucestershire for a career well lived when he came out at No.11. He is a competitive soul who has drawn every ounce of talent from himself and he had a right to pass through his honour-guard cursing.
Coad impressed more with the ball as Yorkshire again took control, removing Chris Dent and Miles Hammond with excellent deliveries. Briefly, Dom Bess' offspin threatened to do for Yorkshire what Gohar had achieved for Gloucestershire - four wickets falling for 18 in six overs with Bess defeating Ben Charlesworth with turn and James Bracey with flight. But Taylor, in particular, hit Bess from the attack in the post-tea session as both he and Ollie Price reached what could turn out to be vital half-centuries.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps