Yorkshire’s hopes of claiming a third Specsavers County Championship win of the season were severely dented by some lusty hitting from Essex’s Australian seamer Peter Siddle late on day three at Emerald Headingley.
The visitors, replying to a first-innings 390, slipped to 223-9, needing to reach 241 to avoid having to bat again.
With only a day remaining in the game, that was key to Yorkshire’s victory hopes. But Siddle crashed a straight four and six off Steve Patterson in the closing stages of the day to see them into the mid 240s.
He finished 39 not out in 252-9 from 99 overs.
But make no mistake, Yorkshire’s bowling was fabulous from an hour before tea, as they squeezed the life out of an Essex innings which had been going along relatively smoothly under overcast skies.
Dom Bess (3-39 from 22 overs), Duanne Olivier and David Willey were the main protagonists in putting the brakes on.
Initially, Tom Westley’s 77 had given the visitors significant belief that they could ease beyond the follow-on target, with them at 132-2 shortly after lunch. Ravi Bopara then played as fluently as anyone else has done in the match for 44, with the visitors advancing to 190-3.
But that was when the wheels came off. Or more accurately, they were prised off by some accurate and probing bowling from the aforementioned trio.
In the final half hour of the afternoon, Yorkshire struck three times, conceding only one run, leaving the score at 191-6. And either side of tea, Bess, Olivier and Willey bowled nine maidens in succession.
Dan Lawrence (21) chipped Olivier to short mid-wicket, where Will Fraine took a sharp low catch as Essex fell to 190-4 in the 61st over.
Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate then edged Bess to Adam Lyth at slip in the 64th before Bopara played on to Olivier having under-edged a pull at the start of the 65th.
Shortly after tea, debutant Will Buttleman fell for a 37-ball duck, caught behind by Jonny Tattersall off Willey (197-7 in the 77th over), only for the White Rose wicketkeeper to drop Siddle on nought later in the over. That was a significant moment.
Yorkshire delayed taking the second new ball, with Bess wheeling away from the Kirkstall Lane End and Willey and Olivier interchanging from the Emerald Stand End.
Simon Harmer was next to go for 18 when he edged Bess to slip, where a diving and juggling Lyth clung on as the score fell to 213-8 in the 86th, with the hosts still bowling with the old ball.
Ben Coad took the new ball in the 89th over, only for the umpires to almost immediately take them off for a 50-minute bad light delay.
Siddle later hit a second six as Yorkshire were frustrated as the day drew to a close.
Day three started with Essex on 18-1.
Westley completed a second-wicket stand of 94 with opener Nick Browne, who was the only morning wicket to fall for 35 when he was trapped lbw pushing forwards at Bess, leaving Essex at 97-2 in the 34th over of the innings.
Westley reached his first Championship fifty of the season off 88 balls and recovered from being struck on the helmet by Olivier. Shortly afterwards, he lofted Bess for a straight six.
But he was the first of the four afternoon wickets to fall when he edged behind a Willey delivery which nipped away – 132-3 in the 48th, the forerunner to Yorkshire’s fightback. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough.