Yorkshire are bidding to end the summer in style with a third LV= Insurance County Championship victory of 2023 after showing significant invention on day three against Worcestershire at Headingley.
Yorkshire, replying to 389, declared their first innings on 262-6 at tea – a deficit of 127.
George Hill top-scored with 52, added to 51 not out from Matthew Revis and an unbeaten 48 from Dom Bess. The latter was in particularly belligerent mood.
The latter two shared a counter-attacking unbroken 85 for the seventh wicket to recover from 177-6, thus avoiding the follow-on during the latter stages of the afternoon.
The declaration came at tea, before Worcestershire – for whom Joe Leach claimed his 450th first-class wicket – slipped to 9-2 inside two overs of their second innings.
Unfortunately, only seven of 39 overs were bowled after tea due to bad light, and there was no play possible beyond 4.20pm. Worcestershire were 18-2 and will begin what promises to be a fascinating fourth day with a lead of 145.
Forty four overs were lost from the day’s allotted 104, with 12 lost this morning as the start of play was delayed by a wet outfield until 11.15am.
Yorkshire made an unconvincing start to the day.
They reached lunch on 93-4 from 26 overs, 19 of them bowled today.
The hosts started on 24-0 and lost Adam Lyth and Fin Bean – the openers who are still just short of 1,000 Championship runs for the summer – before lunch added to Shan Masood and James Wharton.
Lyth couldn’t believe it when given out caught behind off Leach, the ball seemingly kicking up out of the bowlers’ footmarks into the gloves of Gareth Roderick behind the stumps.
That left Yorkshire 32-1 in the 11th over, the fourth of the day, and there was more trouble around the corner.
Bean was bowled through the gate for 31 by left-arm quick Ben Gibbon – potentially off a feather of an inside-edge – and when the same bowler had Shan Masood caught at second slip on the drive for 19, Yorkshire were 67-3 in the 18th over.
Dillon Pennington bowling James Wharton with a beauty capped off Worcestershire’s impressive morning at 92-4.
Yorkshire enjoyed a much healthier afternoon, if not one without alarm.
Hill shared steadying stands of 42 and 43 with Jonny Tattersall and Revis, for the fifth and sixth wickets.
Tattersall was bowled by Pennington for 21, leaving the score at 134-5.
Hill reached his fifty off 77 balls, playing confidently. However, he was trapped lbw the ball afterwards by Leach, whose 450th wicket left Yorkshire 177-6 in the 46th over and still 63 away from avoiding the follow-on.
Leach, 32, claimed his first eight career wickets whilst playing for Leeds/Bradford MCC Universities in 2012, and he played his second first-class match here against Yorkshire.
We digress. Anyway, such concerns about the follow-on were quickly put to bed.
If Hill played confidently – he seems to have done that through much of September in posting three fifties – Revis and, in particular, Bess played aggressively.
Bess led the way with eight fours in 48 off 50 balls, while Revis creamed three successive boundaries off Gibbon as he raced through the forties to reach a fifty off 65 balls.
In passing 240 to avoid the follow-on, they took the sting out of the situation and allowed for the invention from Shan Masood and Ottis Gibson.
The hosts then made a stunning start to their second innings with the ball.
Ben Coad had Roderick caught at mid-off with the first ball of the innings before Azhar Ali edged Matt Milnes to Lyth at second slip in the next over, leaving Worcestershire at 9-2 and 136 in front.
Yorkshire’s tea-time declaration was admirable and should be applauded.
Coach Gibson has long spoken about his intention to play an attacking brand of cricket.
The loss of nearly 1,900 overs to the weather in this season’s Championship has denied Yorkshire the chance to show that on a regular basis.
Having said that, it was somewhat of a surprise that it came at such a time.
A draw could still be enough for Yorkshire to avoid finishing bottom.
Gloucestershire are chasing 513 to beat Sussex at Hove, and would be nine points ahead of Yorkshire if they lose that game.
Yorkshire have already got four bonus points from this match, including one for passing 250 today, and would gain five more for the draw.
With points level, Yorkshire would finish above Gloucestershire courtesy of having won more matches.
But Masood and Gibson have opted to take such variables out of the equation and go for broke here. For that, they can be applauded. Every credit, and fingers crossed it bears fruit tomorrow.
The loss of 32 overs to bad light from 4.20pm onwards didn’t help anybody’s cause.
If anything, it puts the ball into Worcestershire’s court. A contrived finish may well end up being on the cards.