THE sight of Yorkshire’s Rich Pyrah running across the outfield with a blue parachute attached to his back was among the most novel spectacles we have witnessed at North Marine Road – home of novel spectacles and quirky occurrences.
Pyrah was taking part in a training exercise under the supervision of Tom Summers, Yorkshire’s strength and conditioning coach, during a day blighted by steady rain and gale-force winds.
The parachute was designed to pull back Pyrah while he was running in an innovative form of resistance training.
Such was the strength of the wind, however, that one half expected the player to take off and end up entwined in the sails of the windmill that overlooks England’s finest outground.
It has been a wretched fixture so far weather-wise, as evidenced by the unusually meagre crowds who have braved the elements.
Just 4,470 hardy souls have watched the first three days of this match – a total one could easily exceed for a solitary day here in the height of summer.
But on a ground that in recent years has been visited by all manner of unusual happenings, ranging from the PA system picking up a nearby funeral service to a man running on the outfield wearing an Osama bin Laden face mask, the parachute drill took some beating.
Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire’s first team coach, even took a picture on his mobile phone before posting the evidence on the social networking site Twitter.
Pyrah, alas, has missed Yorkshire’s last three County Championship fixtures after breaking his left hand during the opening match against Kent.
The 29-year-old all-rounder is still a little way from a return to action, but while Yorkshire will be hoping to have him back before long, his team-mates are coping admirably in his absence as they chase their first victory of a stop-start season.
Yorkshire have dominated last year’s wooden spoonists Leicestershire to the extent one is compelled to dust off the old cliché that, if this was a boxing contest, it would already have been stopped.
The only question now relates to when the knockout punch will be delivered. The visitors go into the final day on 102-3 in the follow-on – a deficit of 229.
But for inclement weather, they would probably have already succumbed.
Rain permitted only 37 overs on day three, all but 25 balls of which were bowled after 3.30pm.
However, with better weather forecast today, it seems inconceivable Yorkshire will not finish the job and go on to claim their first Championship victory of the season at the fourth attempt.
Not only are Yorkshire the better side, but Leicestershire are mediocre at best.
They might have fared better here had their captain Matthew Hoggard, the former Yorkshire and England pace bowler, not missed the game through injury, and also if they had not dropped five catches in the Yorkshire innings – three by stand-in leader, Ramnaresh Sarwan.
But it has been something of a mismatch by the seaside and Yorkshire are in a great position to get the victory they hope will get their season going.
Leicestershire began another grim and grey day on the coast on 3-1 in their second innings, a deficit of 328.
They wasted little time in losing their second wicket – Jacques du Toit squared-up by a ball from Steve Patterson which ballooned up to Joe Sayers at cover.
But rain arrived just 16 minutes into the action and the players did not return for more than four hours.
From the first delivery after the restart, Patterson looked to have a nailed-on lbw shout against Sarwan turned down by umpire Martin Saggers.
It was one of those hands-on-heads moments for the fielding side – or, in this case, hands-on-bobble-hats moments – but the damage did not prove costly.
Moments later, Patterson went up for a possibly less convincing shout against the same player which Saggers upheld.
It capped a miserable game for Sarwan, who, in addition to his fielding lapses, managed only 16 runs.
Just when you sensed Leicestershire might collapse embarrassingly, Matthew Boyce and Joshua Cobb rallied impressively.
They brought an air of respectability to the scorecard, if not the match position, with a well-constructed fourth-wicket stand.
Boyce, the 26-year-old opener, defended stoically and accumulated solidly, while Cobb was similarly skilled and resolute.
They had taken their partnership to 88 in 31 overs when the players finally retreated to the warmth of the pavilion.
Truly, it was neither a day for parachutists, players nor punters.