Durham 227 and 213 for 8 (Jones 56, Lees 38, Fisher 4-56, Thompson 3-40) require 33 runs to beat Yorkshire 254 and 218 (Raine 4-36, Potts 4-61)
Yorkshire have not won a championship game for 17 games. The 18th has been suspended after they claimed the extra half hour but failed to force victory against leaders Durham at Chester-le-Street. Durham started the final day needing 33 runs with two wickets remaining. A compelling match remains in the balance.
Matthew Fisher, who holds four wickets overnight, said: “We threw everything at them, we only needed one to roll. As stressful as it is and you’re crazy, we know we have to go again tomorrow morning. I didn’t really want that extra half hour because it would have been nice to get out and freshen up.”
Durham’s goal was 246, a big order from which considerable chips were removed on another ball attack by Alex Lees who made 38 off 37 balls, driving carelessly while Fisher and Jordan Thompson started shyly and imprecisely as if they had a long run without success in their consciousness. A failed attempt to change the ball after 3.5 overs summed up their mood as there was little swing to be had.
Masood handled the situation smartly, pulling Fisher out of the attack after two overs, giving him time to think and reintroducing him to Lumley Castle End. If the ball wasn’t swinging, there was soon further confirmation that it would occasionally stay low as Fisher sewed one through Lees’ gaping hole.
Then came a random moment to shift the emphasis. Bess’ career in Yorkshire has stalled, not helped by the county’s hunger for infighting. Runs have eluded him and his bowling average is in the mid 40’s. Unsurprisingly he had struggled to hide his displeasure as several lbw decisions didn’t fall his way. Then he fell to the knee as Graham Clark savagely pushed Matthew Revis to the ground and limped with four overs to his credit, later returning to the sound effect.
Masood was forced to return to Hill, who bore a heavy burden on his slender stature. It paid off straight away, as David Bedingham was restrained by Jonny Bairstow, an excellent one-handed first as the ball died in front of him.
Fisher’s return came with a sense that the game could be turned around. So it was as he took wickets in three successive overs: Ollie Robinson’s flashy drive flew to first slip, Jones fell lbw thanks to the totting-up procedure and Bas de Leede joined the growing list of bowlers to chop up .
If ever there was a time for Jordan Thompson to live up to his somewhat optimistic moniker of “the man who makes things happen” it was there and he added two more as Graham Clark also dragged on and Yorkshire’s Axar Patel racked up in the first innings with some last man silliness, losing his magic on his promotion to No. 9 and immediately falling lbw.
Bess deserves credit for returning late, applying ice and pain meds, and maintaining excellent surgery against admittedly obsessive Durham defenses. Against tired bowlers, in the blazing sun, Durham might have tried better. But they will make fun of that idea if they steal the game in the morning. A new ball is only 10 overs away and by then they will surely want to wrap things up.
Yorkshire were evenly matched at the start of the day – their slot at 91 for 3 gave them a lead of 118. With Malan and Bairstow in the crease – a rare Championship alliance between two England internationals – they had a chance to kill the game. Just as it seemed, Ben Raine hit both in successive overs thanks to excellent catches from Ollie Robinson.
Ollie Robinson is quite an upgrade for Durham, released by Kent as the presence of Sam Billings and Jordan Cox meant limited opportunities. He jumped a long way to the left as Malan chased a wide and then even further to the right as Bairstow attempted a drive. Both had been scrapped for about two and a half hours, but the game’s first half-century was still a long way off.
That fell to Hill, who continued an excellent all-round game with 51 off 52 balls until Potts caught him at second slip on the stroke of lunch with a wide outswinger. A more graceful player than when he first appeared in the side, he made the introduction of spin, in the form of Patel, light-hearted and played Potts in a confident manner like everyone else.
Whatever the outcome, Yorkshire could recognize its growing importance by immediately covering it. They can’t afford it, but then they can’t afford to turn on the lights.
David Hopps writes about county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps