Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale admitted an opportunity had been lost to put daylight between his side and title rivals Nottinghamshire after Durham fought gamely in difficult conditions to secure a draw here.
It was the second time this season Yorkshire had forced last year’s champions to follow on without being able to finish them off. At Chester-le-Street in May, Durham battled through seven sessions to escape four wickets down in the second innings.
This time they endured a marathon of similar duration; better still, they finished it 128 runs in front, enough for Yorkshire to give up the ghost with 11 overs left in the day, even with the explosive batting talents of Aaron Finch at their disposal.
The Durham batsmen insisted there was no improvement in the pitch, outspokenly criticised by captain Paul Collingwood at the end of day three, although both Mark Stoneman and Michael Richardson almost scored hundreds on it and Phil Mustard finished unbeaten on 57 after batting for two hours. The No 10 batsman, Mark Wood, faced 51 balls for his eight.
“It feels a bit like we have lost,” Gale said, although his team now lead the County Championship by five points. “We dominated the game for long periods and to not get over the line and get the win is disappointing. I could not fault the bowlers, who put the ball in the right areas consistently. The only thing you could criticise us for is the half-chances that went down. We were a bit sloppy in the field which was uncharacteristic.”
The most expensive misses allowed Richardson to escape on 27 and 36, in the first instance when Tim Bresnan could not snare a decent chance at short extra cover. The latter opportunity, missed by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow diving full length to his left for a leg-side chance, was difficult, although Bairstow also could not make a stumping when Mustard was on eight and failed to hold a one-handed effort off a Paul Coughlin edge.
When Scott Borthwick was out in the second over of the day, offering no shot to a ball from Jack Brooks that came back into his front pad, the chances of Durham surviving looked slim, but the flurry of wickets Yorkshire anticipated, particularly from Adil Rashid’s leg breaks with the ball turning, never happened.
Stoneman and Richardson proved the pitch was not impossible, for all its variable bounce. The left-handed Stoneman, who will have impressed England’s national selector, James Whitaker, batted carefully and seemed poised for a fourth hundred of the season when he was given out leg-before to part-time off-spinner Adam Lyth, giving vent to what he thought of the decision in audibly colourful terms as he left the field.
Richardson, who has scored more than 500 runs in seven innings against Yorkshire, fell for 95, missing one from Brooks that took out his middle stump with the second new ball.