IT is commonly held that the end justifies the means.
Whether that old proverb holds true for Yorkshire today, following cricket of highly contrived character in Bristol yesterday, remains to be seen, but no one could accuse them of not making every effort to win this match.
By agreeing to two manufactured declarations by Gloucestershire and then forfeiting their own first innings, the visitors were left wanting 400 to win from a minimum of 110 overs.
The game has been badly affected by the weather only to be magically manipulated back into life.
There is a conflicting proverb, of course, which is that evil should not be done so that good may come of it, and there were supporters of both sides who clearly did not agree with the collusion that took place between Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale and his Gloucestershire counterpart Alex Gidman.
There were mumblings in the stands as proceedings entered farcical territory on day three, which ranged from Yorkshire serving up ‘pies’ to facilitate quick scoring at the end of the Gloucestershire first innings to Gloucestershire then turning down singles in their second innings to take time out of the match to leave Yorkshire a pre-arranged target from a set number of overs.
However, without the intervention of Gale and Gidman, the overwhelming likelihood is that this game would have drifted to a soporific draw.
As it is, all results are possible after Yorkshire reached 30-1 from 15 overs at stumps, Joe Sayers the man out, caught behind off Will Gidman for a single.
Whether Gale’s gamble succeeds or backfires, he is clearly prepared to walk the walk as well as talk the talk.
Going into the season, Gale and first-team coach Jason Gillespie made a big noise about being prepared to lose in order to win.
That ideal has been tested here, with Yorkshire having effectively sacrificed a chance of five batting points and three for a draw in an attempt to harvest 16 for a win.
Risks are not uncommon in Division Two of the Championship, where there is no threat of relegation and where the desire for promotion is overwhelming.
The loss of Sayers is a blow to Yorkshire’s chances, for he could have anchored the innings as he did against Leicestershire at Scarborough in 2005, when he made 104 as Yorkshire pursued an identical target.
Only once, in fact, have Yorkshire chased more than 400 to win a first-class match – 406-4 in the away fixture against Leicestershire in 2005. Prior to 2005, their previous highest chase was 331-8 against Middlesex at Lord’s in 1910, emphasising how dominant Yorkshire were in days of yore when they rarely had to chase a sizeable score.
The good news is that the Bristol pitch is conducive to batting, with reliable bounce and a straw-coloured complexion, although the runs are still going to take some getting.
Contrivance was the only way a positive result seemed likely when play began yesterday in welcome sunshine.
After the first day was lost to rain and Gloucestershire scored 165-2 on day two, it was difficult to see where the contest was going when Kane Williamson (89) and Alex Gidman (six) strode out to resume the home team’s first innings.
Williamson was soon to his century, reached from 167 balls with nine fours and a six, before Gidman perished with the total on 203.
Tim Bresnan had him caught behind before ending Williamson’s innings in identical fashion for 111.
Bresnan was Yorkshire’s best bowler and went on to his first five-wicket haul for the county for over two years.
The England man bowled Hamish Marshall for 47, the ball trickling back on to the stumps after the New Zealander dug-out a rapid yorker, and then removed Ian Cockbain courtesy of a head-high catch by Phil Jaques at third slip.
When Steve Patterson dismissed Richard Coughtrie and Ed Young from successive deliveries with the aid of slip catches, before pinning Will Gidman lbw, Gloucestershire had collapsed from 290-4 to 299-9.
Cue the attempt to make something from nothing, with Gale immediately bringing on himself and Adam Lyth to bowl to feed the last wicket pair of Ian Saxelby and Graeme McCarter.
Fifty-two runs arrived from 3.3 overs, Gillespie and Tom Summers, Yorkshire’s fitness guru, acting as ball-boys behind the leg-side boundary to retrieve the barrage of sixes and fours.
Gloucestershire declared on reaching 351 and a fourth batting bonus point before their second innings, in contrast, was an exercise in time-wasting. Openers Benny Howell and Chris Dent several times turned down runs before the second declaration came on 48-0 in the 28th over.
Lyth was dropped on 10 by Alex Gidman at first slip off Saxelby in the Yorkshire second innings, the visitors needing a further 370 at a little under four runs per over.