TOP-order batsmen let you down?
Your team’s innings in disarray?
Just call Gary Ballance and Ryan Sidebottom.
For the second time in successive first-class games, Yorkshire’s eighth-wicket pair prospered where some of their more elevated colleagues did not, compiling a stand of 81 to preserve their side’s negligible hopes of saving the game.
The previous Friday, in Yorkshire’s opening fixture of the season against Leeds-Bradford MCCU, Ballance and Sidebottom added 156 in 56 overs, the club’s 10th-highest eighth-wicket partnership in first-class cricket, to help Yorkshire to 244 after they were 10-4 and 65-7.
Yesterday, after Yorkshire slipped to 140-7, needing a further 121 to avoid an innings defeat, the left-handers were up to their old tricks again.
Ballance (46 not out from 113 balls with five fours) and Sidebottom (48 from 110 deliveries with four fours and a six) helped Yorkshire to 228-8 at stumps on day three, 32 runs behind.
Although it would still take something truly remarkable for Yorkshire to get out of jail, Ballance and Sidebottom at least showed fighting spirit in the face of adversity.
Ballance, who looks increasingly too low in the order at No 6, continued the form he showed against the students, whom he struck to the tune of 112, while Sidebottom – who scored 40 against Leeds-Bradford – was within touching distance of his fourth first-class half-century when he fell in what turned out to be the day’s penultimate over.
The former England man was back in his crease when he edged a ball from James Anyon to first slip, where the safe hands of Chris Jordan did the rest.
Sidebottom stood momentarily in frustration, as though he clearly felt he should have left well alone, but he had fought his corner admirably for 29 overs in contrast to some of his top-order colleagues.
With the notable exception of Phil Jaques, who scored 57 from 99 balls with seven fours, Yorkshire’s top-five struggled once again.
They were a tad more adhesive than they were in the first innings, when Yorkshire managed only 96 runs between them, but obviously not as much as they would have liked.
Jaques, the victim of a good delivery from Steve Magoffin, which he edged to second slip, last night admitted Yorkshire have been below-par with the bat collectively and playing catch-up since early on day one.
However, he insisted that while there is still life, there is still hope. “It was always going to be tough after the first innings scores but we’re still in the fixture at the moment,” said Jaques.
“Obviously we’re hanging on by the skin of our teeth but hopefully the boys can pull off something special in the morning.
“It’s looking grim, and a bit of weather would be handy, but while we’ve still got Gaz (Ballance) in there and other batters left, we’re still in the game,” added Jaques.
“Cricket’s a funny game, and I’ve seen funnier than this, so you never know.”
Assuming that Sussex go on to complete the seemingly inevitable, Jaques believes Yorkshire will benefit from their tough experiences in this game.
The home team have been behind the eight-ball from the start, their low first innings score enabling Sussex to bat with freedom en route to 356, and the Australian is adamant that Yorkshire will improve.
“I think we’ll be better for this,” he added.
“The batters will be better for the hit-out and the bowlers will be better for the run-around, while I don’t think you can read too much into the first game of the season in any case.
“Sussex are a good outfit; they’ve got some good operators, a lot of experience, and we just weren’t good enough on that first day,” he said.
“But we’ll reassess, work hard, and I’ve no doubt we’re more than good enough to handle this division.”
After overnight rain prevented play until 1.20pm and forced the loss of 18 overs in the morning, Yorkshire resumed on 27-1, 233 behind.
Adam Lyth edged the first ball of the day from Magoffin for four through the slips but he and Jaques quickly settled against accurate seam bowling from visitors Sussex.
However, after defending with intense determination and doing all the hard work, the partnership was broken after 45 minutes’ play when Lyth fell in frustrating fashion.
The left-hander was caught down the leg-side off James Anyon and trudged disconsolately back to the pavilion with 25 to his name.
Three balls later, Andrew Gale trod the same unhappy route, caught at third slip by Ed Joyce to leave Yorkshire 64-3.
Jonny Bairstow, back from a tough and frustrating winter with England, showed a lovely glimpse of his world-class quality with an exquisite cover-driven four off Monty Panesar.
However, Jordan produced a good one to bowl him for 18 and, after Jaques departed, Azeem Rafiq fell first ball when he chopped Magoffin into his stumps.
When Liam Plunkett also heard the death rattle against the rampant Magoffin, who claimed 4-50, Yorkshire looked odds-on to lose before stumps.
But Ballance and Sidebottom showed the battling qualities that we have come to expect from this Yorkshire team.
Former Yorkshire batsman Peter Chadwick has been appointed president of the Yorkshire Players’ Association.
Chadwick, who played six first-class games for the county between 1960 and 1965, and served Harrogate CC for many years, succeeds Jim Love on a two-year term.
Bryan Stott and Geoff Cope, who were primarily responsible for the formation of the association eight years ago, have been made honorary members.