Yorkshire’s chances of an LV= Insurance County Championship victory are in the hands of the weather gods having tried to engineer a three-day finish against Sussex at Headingley.
A pulsating opening 9.2 overs of play saw on-song Yorkshire add 78 runs, including 55 off the first four, as they set up a first-innings declaration with a lead of 148 and 92 overs remaining in the day in their bid to avoid the suspected final day washout.
Dawid Malan and Jonny Tattersall – on the way to 92 and 41 respectively – came out of the traps at the start of play to advance Yorkshire from 286-4 to 364-8 declared.
Yorkshire then struck three times quickly after lunch to heighten their chances of win number two this season, leaving Sussex at 48-3. Two more wickets fell in successive overs immediately after tea as the score fell to 127-5.
But scores of 58 for opener Tom Clark and latterly wicketkeeper Oli Carter held things up enough to leave it likely that Sussex will escape through the back door with a draw for the second time this season against Yorkshire. They closed on 236-7 – a lead of 88.
Back in April, Yorkshire needed 63 runs to win with seven wickets left ahead of the day fourth day at Hove, only for rain to frustrate them.
If the forecasters are to be believed, a similar thing is likely tomorrow.
But, even if Yorkshire do miss out on victory and have to settle for their sixth draw in nine Division Two games, they can take a huge amount from this performance.
They have played all the cricket in this fixture, with today surely up there amongst their best days of the season so far.
A couple of brief rain showers through the day cut eight overs from the 92 Sussex had to face.
Malan advanced from 51 to 92 in only 20 balls at the start of play, while captain Tattersall ably and aggressively supported him as they completed an 89 stand for the fifth wicket.
Malan hit two fours and a slog-swept six off the day’s first four balls from off-spinner Jack Carson. Shortly after, he hit two more leg-side sixes against seamer Ari Karvelas.
Greek international Karvelas then claimed three of the four wickets to fall.
Malan was caught and bowled by Nathan McAndrew, while Tattersall, Thompson and Coad all holed out into the leg-side.
Yorkshire then chipped away at the Sussex top order wickets, taking the wickets in clusters. Mark Steketee, Coad and Thompson all struck twice.
Sussex are aiming to stretch their unbeaten run to 10 games in Division Two with a ninth draw.
Left-handed opener Clark dug in amidst improving batting conditions despite the overcast sky and was helped by the more combative Carter.
Steketee made the initial breakthrough just after lunch when Tom Haines edged an expansive drive behind – 31-1 in the 14th over.
Charlie Tear, Tom Alsop’s concussion replacement, then edged Coad behind as the first of two wickets to fall in the space of six balls, leaving the score at 48-3 in the 21st.
The third wicket was James Coles caught low down at third slip by Fin Bean off Thompson.
Clark was on 25 when Carter came in at number five, but the latter was only just behind in the forties when the opener reached his third fifty of the season off 121 balls shortly before tea.
Clark and Carter shared 78 for the fourth wicket, though their partnership was broken almost immediately after tea when a cutting Clark was caught behind at the second attempt by Tattersall off Adam Lyth’s off-spin.
When Danial Ibrahim edged to first slip off Coad two balls later, Sussex were 127-5 in the 43rd over and still 21 runs adrift with almost 42 overs left in the day.
Having earlier hoisted Dan Moriarty’s left-arm spin for six over long-on, Carter went on to reach his fifty off 75 balls.
But Moriarty was the catcher at long-leg as he top-edged a pull at Thompson. By this time, Sussex were 154-6 and six ahead with almost 34 overs remaining.
Australian McAndrew then edged behind an attempted pull at pacy compatriot Steketee – 189-7 and a lead of 41 – but overs were running out for Yorkshire. Sussex’s first-innings top-scorer Fynn Hudson-Prentice, who made 73, met contrasting challenges to finish unbeaten on 43.
He was faced with some short-pitched bowling from Steketee and then leg-spin from Malan, with the new ball, as the light deteriorated late on.