Matthew Fisher led an excellent evening bowling performance to raise Yorkshire’s hopes of claiming an impressive victory over Division Two leaders Durham at the Seat Unique Riverside, with the hosts closing day three on 213-8 in pursuit of 246.
An LV= Insurance County Championship fixture which has swung this way and that on a challenging pitch for the batters saw Durham slip from 126-2 shortly after tea to 173-8.
Fisher finished the day with 4-56 from 17 overs, claiming three of them in that collapse, including opener Michael Jones whose 56 was the highest individual score of the fixture.
Jordan Thompson also struck twice in two balls before ninth-wicket pair Ben Raine and Matthew Potts steadied the ship by sharing 39 through to close, setting up a dramatic finish tomorrow which could see Durham’s injured seamer Brydon Carse required to come out and play a key role in his side’s pursuit of 33 more runs.
Carse wasn’t on the field at all today and instead went for a scan on what Durham described as a trunk injury.
Day three started with Yorkshire slipping to 218 all out in the second innings having started day three at 91-3. Dawid Malan made 44 and Jonny Bairstow 36. Raine and Potts finished with four wickets apiece.
After an encouraging start to the day, with Malan and Bairstow looking solid, things changed quickly as Raine led a home fightback by dismissing the England pair.
They both fell to superb one-handed catches by wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson as they flashed outside off-stump in successive overs, with Yorkshire 145-5 in the 48th over of the innings – a lead of 172.
Unfortunately, that was the start of a damaging period either side of lunch which took the game from being just about in Yorkshire’s grasp to just about in Durham’s.
And, as he had done in the first innings, England fringe seamer Potts played a key role.
Matthew Revis was then bowled by Bas de Leede for eight and Dom Bess trapped lbw by Potts without scoring, leaving Yorkshire at 197-7 after 60 overs.
At the start of Potts’ next over, he claimed his second wicket in as many balls as George Hill edged a sharp catch to David Bedingham at second slip for 51 – 198-8.
Hill had just become the first man in the match to reach 50, off 48 balls.
But he was furious with himself at having, like Bairstow and Malan, gone hard at deliveries outside off which need not have been played at.
Matthew Fisher survived the hat-trick ball from Potts after lunch, but the innings was completed inside six overs.
Jordan Thompson was trapped lbw by Potts – 207-9 – before Mickey Edwards fell to the same mode of dismissal off Raine at the end of the 67th over.
Edwards’ can count himself a touch unfortunate having shouldered arms to an in-swinger which looked like it was missing off-stump.
But his departure paved the way for Durham to begin their chase with 61 overs left in the day.
Lees took the aggressive route against the new ball, which was no surprise.
The left-hander clearly took the view that on this pitch the best time to score runs was with the ball at its hardest.
He took three fours off Fisher as the third over went for 15, two of them driven through the covers, and he went on to score all of Durham’s first 31 runs.
But once Fisher gained revenge by bowling the left-hander off the inside for 38, Durham were 47-1 in the 10th over and the scoring rate slowed significantly.
Further success came when Durham captain Scott Borthwick chipped Thompson to short mid-wicket, leaving the score at 82-2 in the 23rd over.
But Durham chipped away at the runs to seize the initiative. Again, it wasn’t a definitive advantage, but just enough to make them the happier of the two camps as they moved to 126-2 during the early stages of the evening.
Thankfully, Hill ousted South African overseas batter David Bedingham, brilliantly caught low down one-handed to his right by Bairstow for 19 in the 37th over.
Hill returned to the attack and struck in his first over after Bess had been forced out of the attack and off the field having taken a nasty blow to the knee fielding at short mid-wicket.
Bess returned to the field and later to the attack, and the off-spinner bowled nicely for 0-25 from 15 overs.
But the pendulum swung again through Hill, given it proved the first of three wickets in seven overs – the next two going to Fisher as the score slipped to 150-5.
He had Ollie Robinson, so often a thorn in Yorkshire’s side, caught at slip by Adam Lyth for 13 and then opener Michael Jones lbw for 56.
Jones had initially played second fiddle to Lees at the start of the innings, and this had been a very watchful 138-ball innings. But his departure sent shudders through the home dressing room.
That theory was strengthened when Fisher forced Dutch all-rounder Bas de Leede to chop onto his middle stump, leaving the score at 154-6 in the 46th over.
After a loose couple of overs early on, Fisher had found his radar and put Yorkshire on course for an elusive win.
His good work was then backed up by Thompson, who replaced him in the attack and struck twice in as many balls in his first over back as Durham slipped to 173-8 in the 52nd.
He forced Graham Clark to chop on before trapping Ajaz Patel lbw.
But, even with the extra half hour claimed, Yorkshire were unable to wrap things up as Raine and Potts resisted.
Raine will begin day four on 32 and Potts 13.