The noise you can hear is the cat among the pigeons. Until this result it was assumed that Yorkshire and two other counties would be relegated. Yesterday, almost a year to the day since they won the title, Yorkshire recorded their first Championship win of the summer and in doing so ensured that there will be a ding-dong in the basement right to the end.
Groundsman Peter Marron had prepared a pitch to suit Lancashire's spinners but, losing the toss, his team had to bat last and the man to benefit was Yorkshire off-spinner Richard Dawson, with his first five-wicket return this year. Yorkshire caught and fielded, too, as if suddenly reminded that the Championship pennant flying over the ground was theirs. They looked hungry again.
Lancashire's second innings was a series of shocks. Needing 263 with Alec Swann and the nightwatchman Gary Keedy out overnight, they lost the dependable Mark Chilton to the third ball of the morning. Steve Kirby fired in a fast yorker to which Chilton pushed forward, the ball flying off the inside edge at the bottom of the blade into his stumps. That brought in Stuart Law to join David Byas, and the whole ground knew that if Lancashire were to make any progress this pair had to stay for a long time.
In fact the partnership lasted only five overs as Dawson, who had been exploiting the footholds, changed his line to the right-hander and got one ball to turn inside the defensive prod. Byas, impervious to the inevitable barracking from his former team-mates, seemed set on batting all day for 50, if that was what was needed, and when, after Neil Fairbrother had driven Dawson temporarily out of the attack, Richard Blakey called on Anthony McGrath's little wobblers, to a defensive field, it seemed as if Yorkshire had accepted the contest had become a siege.
So it was a further surprise when McGrath, finding a fuller length, made one cut back out of the rough to bowl Byas and leave Fairbrother and an admittedly well-equipped tail to keep the innings alive. The hero of so many Lancashire recoveries, Fairbrother drove and swept with such zest that arriving Manchester United supporters, due across the road, joined in the Lancashire applause. He had hit five boundaries and, with Glen Chapple, forced Yorkshire to patrol the boundaries when, in a fragmentary loss of concentration, he waved limply at a wide ball to guide it gently to deep cover.
Lancashire's captain, Warren Hegg, nursing a dislocated finger, was wise not to bat in such circumstances as Dawson then wrapped up the innings in the next six overs, helped by some splendid catching from a young close cordon. He is bowling with less of a loop than last season, as if losing a little confidence, and this return should help him. He is a capable and intelligent cricketer, just 22, who could give much to county and country.
Yorkshire now have to play Hampshire and Warwickshire away and Leicestershire and Kent at home. Their embattled coach, Wayne Clark, who has been under much fire since May, has always insisted: "We have enough ability to stay up and are capable of winning our remaining games". We shall see.
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