Yorkshire and Derbyshire are set for a thrilling finale to what has been a remarkable LV= Insurance County Championship fixture at Chesterfield, with Yorkshire closing day three on 147-6 chasing 212.
Unbeaten Shan Masood’s second fifty of the match – an unbeaten 68 off 71 balls – has kept Yorkshire’s hopes high.
But Derbyshire are also confident of winning a Division Two match between two so far winless sides, especially having finished the day by taking three wickets for seven runs as Yorkshire slipped from a position of significant health at 140-3.
Yorkshire lost openers Adam Lyth and Fin Bean as well as George Hill, Jonny Tattersall and nightwatchmen Matthew Fisher and Matthew Revis, with Scottish international left-arm spinner Mark Watt claiming three of them.
Captain Masood, who made 67 in the first innings against his former county, played his part in the run out of Hill. But he played with positivity afterwards.
First-innings centurion Dawid Malan is yet to bat following a groin injury. He couldn’t bat in his usual position at four having been off the field in Derbyshire’s second innings.
For the match to be in this position is of huge credit to Derbyshire, who posted 453-9 in their second innings having been 17-4 just after lunch on day two.
Derbyshire’s recovery was led by brilliant centuries from fifth-wicket pair Leus du Plooy and Haider Ali, one their captain and the other their international overseas player.
The pair shared 277 inside 68 overs, with South African left-hander du Plooy’s 170 off 294 balls marking his best score in a Derbyshire shirt and Pakistani Ali’s 146 off 193 his first century for the county he joined in April as a replacement for Masood.
Derbyshire’s innings was wrapped up in bizarre circumstances after the umpires called an early tea.
Suranga Lakmal, their Sri Lankan new ball seamer and number 11 batter, was struck a nasty blow on the helmet as he ducked into a well directed Fisher bouncer.
After a short spell of treatment, Lakmal had to retire hurt.
Umpires Tom Lungley and Chris Watts immediately called for an early tea at 3.55pm to allow for discussions regarding a concussion substitute with match referee Phil Whitticase, and it was decided that the man in question, Zak Chappell, was unable to bat.
While seamer Chappell was deemed a like for like bowling replacement for Lakmal, it was decided that he was a better batter than the injured party and therefore prevented from taking his place at the crease.
That meant Yorkshire’s reply started immediately after tea.
Derbyshire recovered their second innings from peril yesterday. Yorkshire weren’t at their best with the ball on day two – they did improve significantly today – but du Plooy and Ali had come together with their side drinking in the last chance saloon and should be applauded for their work.
Had their partnership been broken quickly, it would surely have been game over. But they fused caution with aggression to put the pressure back on the visitors.
Their partnership resumed on 231 this morning, and they added 46 more to that in first hour.
Ali – 129 overnight – was the only morning wicket to fall when trapped lbw by George Hill as the score slipped to 294-5 in the 75th over, a lead of 52 just before the new ball was taken.
Du Plooy then found another ally in wicketkeeper Brooke Guest, and they shared 73 either side of lunch.
By their own admission, Yorkshire needed to improve with the ball today. And they did.
In fact, they deserved more than the one morning wicket that they got.
The irony was that the one they did get – Ali trapped lbw by Hill – was shown to have been legside-ish. Put it this way, there could have been no complaints had it not been given.
Having been taken to task yesterday, Bess bowled nicely today.
His first wicket was that of Guest caught at mid-on for 42 as he miscued a delivery which turned sharply – 367-6 in the 100th over. It came four balls after a change of ball.
Having been watchful at the start of play, du Plooy then started to bat with a bit more adventure, using his feet to Bess.
He survived a difficult stumping chance to Jonny Tattersall, but soon after departed when he drove Bess to Lyth at slip, leaving the score at 404-7 in the 110th – a a home lead of 162.
Bess’s third wicket came four overs later when Watt edged behind reverse sweeping, and then Ben Aitchison drove Fisher to cover as Derbyshire fell to 431-9.
Alex Thomson, the off-spinner who Derbyshire were hoping would be a big weapon with the ball, hit a couple of leg-side sixes off Bess in a useful unbeaten 39.
But his innings, like Lakmal’s and Derbyshire’s, came to an end when the Sri Lankan was felled by Fisher’s bouncer.
Clearly, the nerves of Yorkshire’s supporters had been heightened with Derbyshire’s fightback. But the positive from that was that the pitch had clearly improved significantly for batting.
And Lyth and Bean started well against a new ball attack of substitute seamer Chappell and Scottish international left-arm spinner Watt.
Adam Lyth and Fin Bean started confidently, the latter advancing at Watt driving him arrow straight for four as one of three early boundaries.
However, he did fall for 19 when he drove the other spinner, Thomson, into the covers in the 14th over – 38-1.
Further success for Derbyshire came when Watt returned to the attack and had Lyth lbw for 30 before Hill was run out for nought by Ben Aitchison from point at the striker’s end after he had been called through for a single by Masood.
That left Yorkshire at 84-3 in the 24th over.
But Masood immediately stepped on the gas, taking back-to-back leg glanced boundaries off Aitchison in the next over as 14 came from it. Tattersall worked and swept two more off Watt in the next.
By the time Masood reached his second fifty of the match off 45 balls, Yorkshire were 113-3 needing 99 more.
Tattersall and Masood hit back-to-back boundaries twice more, but then came three overs of mayhem at the end of the day to put the result back into the balance.
Tattersall was trapped lbw with one that kept low from Thomson before Fisher was bowled by Watt, who also had Revis caught at slip.