“GREAT effort from @Middlesex_CCC to force a win. Hope @YorkshireCCC try and do the same tomorrow.”
So tweeted Steve Denison, the Yorkshire chairman, after close of play on Wednesday evening.
He was responding to events in Taunton, where Middlesex claimed a dramatic victory against Somerset with two balls to spare after chasing 302 inside 46 overs.
The result extended Middlesex’s lead at the top of the table, one week after they beat Yorkshire at Scarborough, and put pressure back on the champions.
Could Yorkshire possibly do something similar?
Could the champions pull a rabbit from the hat?
In the end, with the odds stacked against a positive result, Yorkshire made sure, first and foremost, of taking maximum batting points on a pitch on which it was always going to be tough to bowl Surrey out again.
After starting day four on 207-3 in reply to Surrey’s first innings 267, Yorkshire eschewed any notion of going hell for leather in the morning potentially to give their bowlers more time, and they were dismissed for 407 after adding 200 at just under five runs an over.
It left them with a lead of 140 and 52 overs left in the match, Surrey reaching 106-1 from 38 overs before hands were shaken on the inevitable draw.
Yorkshire could have put their foot down in the morning, which brought 123 runs in 32 overs, but that would have been to risk wickets and potentially miss out on bonus points, a gamble they clearly did not want to take.
On a spicier surface, they would perhaps have attacked with greater gusto and taken the risk, confident that conditions would enable their bowlers to prosper.
As it was, they could content themselves with having the better of a game that was ruined by the loss of 142.2 overs to rain on the first two days, Yorkshire rising to fourth in the table, 25 points behind Middlesex with a game in hand.
“It’s a fantastic league this year, but we’re not bothered just yet where we sit in the table,” said first-team coach Jason Gillespie.
“Middlesex have played well this round, but we can’t control what they do and we know we can play very good cricket.”
Yorkshire started day four on 207-3, a deficit of 60.
Nine runs came off the opening over – including two boundaries for nightwatchman Steve Patterson – but that proved something of a red herring.
Yorkshire batted positively but also sensibly as the fourth-wicket pair of Adam Lyth and Patterson prospered comfortably.
Patterson was the more aggressive, contributing 32 to the 50 stand and showing that there is more to his game these days than metronomic accuracy with the ball.
Lyth loosened up with a lovely on-driven four off Tom Curran, and Yorkshire cleared the 60-run deficit in exactly an hour.
It was not the trigger for any forced acceleration, although boundaries still came by natural means.
Lyth, who began the day on 116, advanced to 150 from 233 balls with 15 fours and two sixes, while Patterson, who resumed on five, went to his third first-class half-century from 87 deliveries with seven fours.
Finally, Patterson’s eyes lit up at a ball from Zafar Ansari that bowled him as he tried to hit to mid-wicket, ending a stand of 91 in 26 overs.
Yorkshire lost two more wickets just before lunch, Adil Rashid top-edging an attempted pull off Ansari to slip, and Tim Bresnan falling lbw to Gareth Batty on the sweep.
Lyth walked off with 173 to his name, and his fourth double hundred for Yorkshire was not long in coming as the visitors attacked after the interval.
Lyth launched Batty into The Peter May Stand, while Liam Plunkett gave it some clout in an entertaining 37 from 20 balls.
The pace bowler clubbed Ansari for two sixes before falling to a run-out when he attempted a second after cutting Tom Curran.
Lyth uppercut Stuart Meaker for his fifth six to reach 200 from 290 balls and simultaneously raise Yorkshire’s 400 in the 105th over.
Next ball, Lyth skied Meaker straight up as he aimed to leg and was caught by Steven Davies, who was wearing the gloves as Ben Foakes was unwell.
Andrew Hodd was brilliantly caught on the run by Rory Burns at cover, and the innings ended when David Willey pulled Meaker to deep mid-wicket.
Surrey reached 20 from eight overs in reply before Rafiq struck with his first delivery to have Burns caught-and-bowled.
Dominic Sibley and Ansari repelled Yorkshire with an unbroken stand of 86 as another match passed into the annals of obscurity, memorable only for the brilliance of Lyth.