Warwickshire’s insistence that their First Division title defence is not dead may be more than wishful thinking.
Having arrived here on the back of consecutive wins over Middlesex and Nottinghamshire, their revival looked as though it might be short in duration as Yorkshire reached the halfway point with their noses clearly in front. After fighting back superbly on day three, however, the visitors have made themselves favourites to win and left Yorkshire hoping for a wet Monday.
The worry for the hosts, though, is that with a lead of only 141 and seven wickets down, Warwickshire might need less than half a day to secure a win and climb to fourth in the table, ahead of Durham – beaten by Middlesex yesterday – and with the gap between themselves and Yorkshire, who will remain top by virtue of Derbyshire’s surprise win at Hove, down to 21 points.
Should that happen, Yorkshire will look back and blame themselves, particularly for a slack morning, which they began 81 in front, with Warwickshire eight wickets down, but ended it only 12 ahead, themselves two second-innings wickets down. In between came a stand of 99 between Keith Barker and Jeetan Patel in which Patel was dropped twice, both times off leg-spinner Adil Rashid, by Jack Brooks on the square leg boundary and by the captain, Andrew Gale, at short midwicket, both sloppy misses.
Barker, a fine left-arm bowler who can bat properly, was unlucky not to complete a half-century when given run out – erroneously, it seemed – and Patel, lucky though he was, hit 10 fours and a six over Ryan Sidebottom’s head before the bowler had him caught behind. By that time, against all predictions, Warwickshire had a first-innings lead, and when Yorkshire lost both openers in the eight overs they had to negotiate before lunch, they were in danger of losing their way.
The response from the home side after lunch was strong initially, Gale and Gary Ballance adding 76 before Gale, fending off a ball from Boyd Rankin that climbed on him, was caught at gully. But Rashid fell to a poor shot, Azeem Rafiq – batting despite a damaged wrist – was caught off bat and pad and then Ballance, the first-innings centurion, was bowled by a full-length ball from Chris Woakes off an inside edge. Woakes, who had Liam Plunkett caught behind, was the pick of the bowlers, finishing with 4 for 31.