Elliott keeps up Yorkshire hopes

Warwickshire 601-9 dec v Yorkshire 351 and 304-5

By Stephen Fay
Wednesday 22 January 2014 05:13

We know it's a funny old game, and it was funny to consider the way Yorkshire proposed to stay in the first division even though they were 250 behind Warwickshire on first innings at Edgbaston yesterday.

Many teams would have accepted defeat and settled for an extra day off, but when your Championship pennant flutters in the wind by the scoreboard and you are trying to escape relegation, you concoct the most extraordinary scenario to escape the awful reality of failure.

At the start of the match what Yorkshire needed was a win, but they calculated that a minimum of 11 points would give them a statistical chance of avoiding relegation. Unfortunately they lost the toss. The wicket was flat and they got only two bowling points out of three in Warwickshire's first innings of 601. (They became only the third county to score more than 600 against Yorkshire in the history of the Championship. If you can't guess the others, the answer is at the end of the article.)

That meant that Yorkshire had to win a full set of five batting points by scoring 400. As the mist lifted and the sun began to shine through the clouds at the start of play, Yorkshire were 261 for 6 and their prospects looked grim.

The ball was turning, though slowly, and Warwickshire plumped for a novice spin attack of Mark Wagh, 25, and James Spires, 22. They got through their overs quickly and two Richards, Blakey and Dawson, got off to a cracking start, reaching 302 for 6 in 25 minutes. Rejoice a bit, because that meant one more batting point; 81 runs came from 21 overs in the first hour. The scoring rate was out of a long-ago county game you read about in grubby Wisdens.

It was too good to last and it ended when Blakey edged a drive to Dominic Ostler at first slip. A stand of 93 had taken Yorkshire to 320 for 7. Blakey's 70 was a captain's innings because it meant Yorkshire could still dream. Dawson and Ryan Sidebottom put on 25 more runs before Sidebottom was caught at mid off, five runs short of another batting point.

They reached 350 and Dawson got to his 50 with only eight wickets down, but hopes of that vital fifth batting point at 400 were dashed when the last two wickets fell on 351. The total of bowling and batting points was just six. Even if they did manage a draw, 10 points would not be enough to save them.

Yorkshire's absolutely last chance was a shock win, something that had seemed impossible from the moment they lost the toss. Now that would depend on whether the home captain, Michael Powell, enforced the follow-on or not. Wayne Clarke, Yorkshire's coach, feared they would bat again because that is how a ruthless skipper forces an opponent right out of the game. Apparently Warwickshire's coach, Bob Wool-mer, thought ruthlessness was the correct course, but Powell did not. Yorkshire were sent in to bat again.

Warwickshire have been as surprising as Yorkshire this season, but at the right end of the table. Unlike Yorkshire, they have maximised the sum of their parts. But Shaun Pollock is gone and the attack now lacks penetration, especially on an easy wicket like this one.

Victor Craven was caught by Keith Piper off a thin edge at 39, but Matthew Elliott, a class import from Victoria, and Anthony McGrath eroded the confidence of the spinners and the hapless seamers aroused no sense of threat.

Yorkshire needed to score at four an over to establish a lead of 70 or so at the close, and the partnership grew exactly according to plan: 82 off 20; 163 off 40; 201 off 50. The 150 partnership came up in 126 minutes.

It was funny. Yorkshire were continuing to deny their fate. They imagine that if they can get a lead of around 170 after an hour today, then Dawson could spin Warwick-shire out. Yorkshire's points would mean they could fight on to avoid relegation. In the words of the comic classic: "With one bound Jack was free". Completely improbable, but not entirely impossible.

(The other counties who have scored 600 against Yorkshire are Leicestershire and Somerset.)

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