Tim Bresnan led a gutsy Yorkshire fightback with an unbeaten 72 as the champions fought hard to hang on to their title on an absorbing second day against Division One leaders Middlesex at Lord’s.
Team-mate Jack Brooks had earlier taken a career-best 6 for 65 as Middlesex were dismissed for 270. Toby Roland-Jones spearheaded the riposte by removing three of Yorkshire’s top four for ducks before Bresnan, from No.5 in the order, led the fightback.
He shared a stand of 116 in 35 overs with Andy Hodd (64) before two wickets in the last hour tilted the balance back Middlesex’s way as Yorkshire trailed by 35 on 235 for 6, with Bresnan 72 not out from 178 balls with seven fours.
It completed an excellent day for the former England player who had earlier finished with 3 for 49.
Brooks said: “It’s a bit like our season – we’re in a dogfight, but we’re hanging in there. We could do with Bressy getting a steady hundred – but no pressure on him there.
“He’s worked his way up from eight to five with his batting, and he’s probably been our best bowler in this game as well after coming in as fifth seamer – shows what a world-class bowler he is.
“I wasn’t that happy to start with because I didn’t get wickets with the new ball, but I managed to stay a bit more controlled, especially when I came back on from the pavilion end, and eventually I got my rewards.
“We’d like to have rolled them for 200 if we were right on the money, but we didn’t let them get away and we’re still in there fighting.”
Yorkshire need to get 350 in the first innings and then win to claim their third successive Championship but that looks unlikely on a pitch offering assistance to the seamers and with a new ball due after 11 overs in the morning.
But while Bresnan is there they have hope. The 31-year-old passed 50 for the 30th time in his first-class career and fifth this season although it could be that Roland-Jones’ new ball burst proves ultimately decisive as Middlesex press for their first Championship since 1973.
Ten of the 11 wickets that fell came from bowlers operating at the Pavilion End and Roland-Jones picked up 3 for 7 in a high-class eight-over new ball spell. A yorker proved too good for Alex Lees while Gary Ballance and Andrew Gale, to his second ball, were caught at second slip by deliveries angled across them.
At the other end Adam Lyth played impressively, scoring 43 of Yorkshire’s first 53 runs before he was unluckily bowled by a delivery from Steve Finn which rolled off his bat onto the stumps.
Middlesex were rampant but Bresnan found a reliable ally in Hodd as Yorkshire launched another of the middle-order rallies that have been a feature of their title defence.
As the ball got softer batting became easier, although Hodd should have been dismissed on 22 when Finn found his edge but Nick Compton grassed a straightforward catch at third slip.
Hodd was first to his half-century and had moved onto 64 when Roland-Jones returned and trapped him leg before as he shaped to play the ball to leg.
It was a big blow to Yorkshire who then lost David Willey (22) to Tim Murtagh before Azeem Rafiq and Bresnan saw their side through to stumps.
Earlier, Yorkshire’s seamers had fought back superbly, led by Brooks who took the last three wickets to fall as Middlesex added just 62 runs in the session before they were dismissed five minutes before lunch.
He dismissed Ollie Rayner, Finn and Murtagh after Bresnan had claimed the key wickets of Nick Gubbins and James Franklin.
Gubbins added just five runs to his overnight 120 before driving loosely to second slip having put on 73 for the sixth wicket with his captain.
Bresnan also picked up Franklin for 48 before Brooks returned to the attack to sweep away the tail and take his season’s tally to 59 with power to add on Thursday when a fascinating game may take decisive shape.
Bresnan: “We just try and take the game situation out of it, even the table situation, and just focus on little goals – ten runs at a time. That’s how me and Hoddy built that partnership there.
“They bowled really well at us for a little spell and made it really tough for us but cricket is about little battles, and we managed to overcome that challenge and kick on.
“We’ve got 40-odd overs left (to get 350) which should be plenty of time. Just take it in tens.
“Build partnerships all the way down the list, and hopefully get that magic number (350).
“I’ve had to sit in a little bit but they bowled well.
“With the clientele we’ve got in dressing room we never say never. We’ve managed to win from some unbelievable positions this season and if we can get up to 350 we’ll be in a good position.”