YORKSHIRE are in the thick of a relegation fight but Andrew Gale believes they have “turned a corner” with a hard-fought draw against champions Middlesex.
The county’s first team coach was impressed with the way that his players responded to calls for improvement going into the game – particularly with the bat, an area in which Yorkshire have struggled this year.
Yorkshire scored 358 in their first innings at Headingley, a fine display in challenging circumstances, Middlesex replying with 272-8 in their own first innings before the sides shook hands on day four of a rain-ruined fixture.
The result left Yorkshire fifth in Division One with 114 points from 11 games, level with sixth-placed Middlesex but with one more win.
Seventh-placed Somerset, who occupy the final relegation place, are on 101 points from their 11 matches.
Somerset’s win against bottom club Warwickshire at Edgbaston yesterday was bad news for Yorkshire and Middlesex, who are now under heavy pressure from the West Country outfit going into the final three rounds of the season.
Yorkshire take on Surrey at the Oval next week before hosting Warwickshire at Headingley and then meeting champions-elect Essex at Chelmsford.
Middlesex play Hampshire at Uxbridge and Lancashire at Lord’s before locking horns with Somerset at Taunton.
Somerset’s two games prior to the potentially pivotal visit of Middlesex are against Lancashire at Taunton and Surrey at the Oval.
Warwickshire are all-but down with 71 points from 11 games, leaving Yorkshire, Middlesex and Somerset – who this time last year were in a three-way title fight – in a tense battle to avoid joining them in Division Two, while even third-placed Hampshire and fourth-placed Surrey are not mathematically safe.
Yorkshire can only concentrate on themselves and Gale was pleased with their efforts this week. “The most pleasing thing was how we approached our batting,” he said.
“We’ve had a difficult time with the bat lately, but over the last two weeks, when we haven’t had a game, the work ethic and attitude that the lads have showed has been outstanding.
“We wanted to see that transferred out onto the field, and in this game it was, so I feel like we’ve turned a corner.
“It’s given us a lot of confidence and the key now is to replicate that as much as possible in the last three games.”
Play did not start yesterday until 3.10pm due to heavy showers. Despite tantalising sunny intervals either side of the downpours, there was a particular area of concern in front of the Football Stand, where the outfield had not drained well.
It led to several inspections by umpires Jeremy Lloyds and Richard Illingworth, who pretty much patted down every blade of grass several times over as they scrutinised the outfield with exaggerated care.
Finally, the sterling efforts of Andy Fogarty and his groundstaff paid off, allowing 34.5 overs to be bowled as both sides battled to gain bonus points that could potentially be significant. Middlesex took two more yesterday to Yorkshire’s one, advancing from their overnight position of 108-3.
Yorkshire had a bowling point in the bag already for obtaining three wickets, and Liam Plunkett set them on the way to another one with two wickets in three overs as the visitors slipped to 143-5. First, Plunkett bowled Paul Stirling with a ball that came back sharply from the Football Stand end before having John Simpson caught at second slip by Adam Lyth off a rising delivery.
When Ben Coad had James Franklin taken by Lyth in the same position, Middlesex were 184-6 and Yorkshire had their second point.
Adam Voges scored an unbeaten 65 for Middlesex, who also lost James Harris to a catch at deep mid-wicket by Ryan Sidebottom off Adil Rashid, and Ollie Rayner, bowled by Tim Bresnan.