THE PARALLELS were striking and evocative.
At 10.52am, Tim Bresnan was joined at the crease by the Yorkshire last man Ryan Sidebottom.
The total was 336-9.
Twelve months earlier, the same pair had joined forces in the corresponding match at Lord’s when Yorkshire were 334-9 and needing to reach 350 for a fourth batting bonus point to preserve their hopes of winning the Championship.
There followed one of the most tense and thrilling passages of play in recent memory as Bresnan – playing the innings of his life – and Sidebottom helped to keep them in the hunt, lifting Yorkshire to 390 before Middlesex went on to win the game and clinch the title.
One year on, and the respective fortunes of these clubs could not be more different.
It’s been frustrating. We want to get as many points as we can. If we can’t get a win, hopefully we can get some good points from the game.Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance
With three weeks of the season left, not only is the title now beyond them, but they are also involved in a relegation fight.
While it is a fight that both will be confident of winning, a draw here, which is the likeliest outcome heading into day four, allied to a likely victory for second-bottom Somerset over Warwickshire at Edgbaston, would see Somerset close to within touching distance of Yorkshire and Middlesex with three games left.
Although it is improbable that Yorkshire will be relegated given the quality of players at their disposal, and the fact that they still have whipping boys Warwickshire to play, only the most myopic observer would be oblivious to the prevailing danger.
Yesterday, Bresnan and Sidebottom helped Yorkshire to 350 and a fourth batting bonus point once again, the hosts going on to 358 before being dismissed an hour into day three.
With the first day washed out and the second seeing Yorkshire advance to 317-7 after being made to bat, the game is going nowhere unless Yorkshire can somehow make Middlesex follow-on and capture 17 wickets in the day.
A further 56 overs were lost to rain and bad light on day three as Middlesex reached 108-3 in reply, 250 behind and 101 short of the follow-on mark.
Given good weather and full four days, this could have been a fascinating contest between two counties striving to recapture last year’s heights.
As it is, it has been something of a damp squib, with players left kicking their heels and spectators forced to while away the delays in play.
When proceedings were eventually called off at 4.40pm yesterday, long after it had become clear that there would be no more cricket, only those professionally obliged to be present and eternal optimists remained to hear Howard Ferguson’s mellifluous announcement.
The weather has hampered Yorkshire more than Middlesex, with the hosts having had the better of the match.
Their total was a good one on a pitch offering pace and carry, particularly so as the batting has floundered all season.
It was only the second time, in fact, that Yorkshire have managed four batting bonus points in a match this summer, the other being against Warwickshire at Edgbaston in April.
But after Middlesex had reduced them to 116-4, Jack Leaning (85) and Andrew Hodd (51) combined to practically double the score and calm any nerves.
The efforts of Leaning and Hodd were built on by Bresnan and Liam Plunkett, whose eighth-wicket stand stood at 47 when play began on day three in fleeting sunshine.
Bresnan had 26 and Plunkett 34, but Plunkett did not add to his tally as he fell to the day’s third ball – and his first – when Tim Murtagh trapped him lbw.
Ben Coad is no mug at No.10 and he cover-drove Murtagh for a handsome boundary, but the bowler had his revenge when Coad was caught at first slip by Adam Voges to leave the hosts nine-down.
That brought together Bresnan and Sidebottom, evoking memories of September last.
Bresnan has had a tougher time with the bat this year (five ducks in 11 Championship innings prior to this), but he has looked back to something like his best in this game.
Once the 350 had been raised, Sidebottom hammering Murtagh to the long-on boundary, there was no point in hanging around and Bresnan fell in the quest for quick runs when he sliced James Harris to Paul Stirling out at deep point.
Bresnan scored 44 from 107 balls with five fours, while Sidebottom ended unbeaten on nine.
After a frustrating finish to the morning session, with Yorkshire unable to break through as Middlesex reached 53-0 at lunch, Sidebottom made his mark with the ball.
The left-armer bowled Nick Compton with one that held its line and went on to hit off stump before having Stevie Eskinazi well caught low down at third slip by Leaning.
After 19 overs were lost to bad light, Sidebottom claimed his and Yorkshire’s third wicket when Sam Robson was caught behind off a ball that left him.
It was practically the last action before the weather took a final turn for the worse.