Yorkshire's championship lead is slashed despite Rudolph heroics

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The Independent Online

Yorkshire's lead in the County Championship was cut from 21 points to six after a gallant attempt to chase down 369 to beat Essex at Chelmsford ultimately failed.

Jacques Rudolph hit a superb 106 off 153 balls and Jonathan Bairstow 62 off 66 to give Andrew Gale's side a real chance but after batting themselves into a strong position, needing 66 from 10 overs with six wickets in hand, the loss of three wickets in the space of 16 deliveries wrested the chance from their grasp.

Nottinghamshire, whom they meet at Headingley a week on Tuesday, have two matches in hand.

Essex declared at 293-6 after Alastair Cook had completed his first century of the season, giving Yorkshire a minimum of 83 overs to reach their target.

Rudolph hit Chris Wright for four boundaries in consecutive balls as he and Adam Lyth put on 79 inside 16 overs for the first wicket before Lyth was stumped by James Foster off the left-arm spinner Tim Phillips.

Soon after lunch, Anthony McGrath was caught and bowled by Andy Carter – on loan from Nottinghamshire – for 16 and Yorkshire went without a boundary for more than 20 overs either side of tea. But they kept the scoreboard moving and when Gale was out sweeping for 44, they needed 169 more from 28 overs.

Phillips bowled Rudolph off an inside edge but Bairstow picked up the gauntlet, hitting Phillips over his head for six so that 133 were wanted from 21.

Bairstow completed his half-century off 53 balls but then two superb catches – by Matt Walker at extra cover to remove Gerard Brophy, and by Grant Flower at long on to end Bairstow's charge – tipped the balance Essex's way.

When Tim Bresnan was stumped by Foster off Flower's bowling, Yorkshire had gone from 310-4 to 319-7 and quickly decided a draw was preferable to defeat, instructing Adil Rashid and Steve Patterson to block out the remaining five and a half overs.

Lancashire stay third after their rain-affected match against Durham petered out as a draw at Chester-le-Street. The 2008 and 2009 champions, who look out of this year's race, just avoided the follow-on as they continued their reply to Lancashire's 344 all out, having finished the third day in trouble on 96-5.

Glen Chapple, the Lancashire captain, bowled beautifully to finish with 5-65 as Durham were bowled out for 216, with Phil Mustard not out on 71.

With 63 overs left in the day, Lancashire might have looked to build quickly on their lead of 128 and perhaps dangle a carrot for Durham but quickly settled for a draw and nine points from the match.

Kent held out at 191-7 to draw at Taunton, where 158 overs were lost to rain over the four days.

Corey Collymore finished with 4-66 as Middlesex conceded a lead of 102 against the Second Division leaders Sussex, who take a lead of 211 into the final day at Uxbridge, with five wickets in hand.