AS Fred Trueman once said: “Anyone foolish enough to predict the outcome of this match is a fool.”
Yorkshire and Somerset head into the final day of their County Championship match at Taunton with all results possible.
At stumps last evening, Yorkshire were 171-5 in their second innings, a lead of 124. It could turn out to be a humdinger or the proverbial damp squib.
Whatever happens, Somerset are presently ahead on points – morally, if not literally.
The hosts, who took seven bonus points to Yorkshire’s eight, have had the better of events against the county champions.
Yorkshire batted well at the start of the game, scoring 438 in their first innings on the back of splendid hundreds by Jack Leaning and Tim Bresnan, but have been second-best since.
Yesterday, they had one of their poorest days for some time, savaged by the home side’s last-wicket pair of Craig and Jamie Overton and then put under serious pressure in their second innings until an unbeaten stand of 54 in 23 overs between Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid steadied the ship.
The Overton twins destroyed a bowling attack in which only Steve Patterson gave Andrew Gale consistent control.
They hammered 76 runs from just 5.5 overs, last man Jamie leading the way with a half-century reached from just 18 deliveries.
It was not your typical tail-end slogging, but authentic strokeplay against bowlers who had no answer to the savage assault.
Another 15 minutes of it and Yorkshire might have been in serious bother; as it is, they could yet still win against a side who lost three of their opening four Championship games.
The third day actually began promisingly for Yorkshire.
Liam Plunkett celebrated his call-up to the England squad for the second Test at Headingley, starting on Friday, by striking with the fourth ball of the morning, bowling nightwatchman Alfonso Thomas.
Tom Cooper, the Australian right-hander who resumed on 55, carried on from where he left off as he added 58 in 12 overs with Jim Allenby, who was bowled by Patterson – the bowler’s 250th wicket in first-class cricket.
Patterson, nicknamed “Dead” by his team-mates on account of his refreshingly understated character, breathed life into Yorkshire’s efforts while some of his colleagues wilted in the sunshine.
He claimed another wicket when he knocked out Peter Trego’s leg stump and then captured his fifth of the innings when Alex Barrow was strangled down the leg side for a duck.
Patterson, the 31-year-old right-arm pace bowler, is one of those unsung heroes who is called an unsung hero so often that he is more accurately a “sung” hero.
Gale would doubtless have been singing his praises while at the same time bemoaning some of the four-balls served up at the other end. Somerset rattled along at a fair old lick, and when Cooper hit Plunkett for successive offside fours, the hosts had maximum batting points with 15 overs to spare.
Cooper, who was batting at the other end on that fateful day in Sydney last November when Phillip Hughes was fatally injured, deserved a hundred for a delightful performance full of crisp strokes.
But he fell one run short when Plunkett strangled him down the leg side with a short delivery.
At 409-9, Yorkshire seemed likely to emerge with a slender first-innings lead. As it was, they were taken down by the Overtons, who treated the crowd to some memorable strokes.
Jamie kicked things off with a pulled six off Plunkett before Craig struck four boundaries in an over off Patterson, which rather spoiled his figures of 5-70 from 23 overs.
Seventeen runs came from the over in total – the last Patterson bowled – and 17 came from the next one too, bowled by leg-spinner Adil Rashid, with Jamie this time hitting four boundaries to raise the 50 stand from 25 deliveries. Such was the strokeplay that Jamie’s bat broke amid the carnage.
The replacement proved pretty useful too, the batsman promptly pulling Rashid for six and then launching his next ball over the Marcus Trescothick Stand and into the river beyond long-on.
Only when Jamie edged Rashid’s next delivery to Bresnan at slip, attempting another big hit, did the mayhem finish, Craig ending unbeaten on 31 from 25 balls with six fours as 176 runs came in the morning session.
Yorkshire were quickly in trouble when Alex Lees was adjudged caught behind off the 11th ball of the second innings to Trego.
Will Rhodes and Leaning added 77 in 28 overs before Rhodes was brilliantly held by Allenby at slip off Johann Myburgh for 40 – his fourth score in the 40s in eight Championship innings without a half-century.
Leaning went to fifty from 108 balls with six fours but fell three balls later in the third over after tea, caught at deep backward-square leg pulling Craig Overton.
When the same bowler had Gale caught at second slip before bowling Glenn Maxwell, Yorkshire were 117-5 – effectively 70-5.
They were indebted to the unbeaten duo Bairstow (33) and Rashid (23) for stopping the rot and giving them hope.