A COMBINATION of obdurate batting, glorious weather, the lack of a specialist spin bowler in the Somerset ranks and Taunton’s tendency to flatten out enabled champions Yorkshire to emerge with a draw.
They would have settled for that at start of play, when they were 171-5 in their second innings, a lead of 124, and even more so when they were 117-5 when the sixth-wicket pair of Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid had come together on the third evening, at which point they were effectively 70-5.
Their partnership of 117 in 44 overs – sedate by the standards of two fluent stroke players, but perfectly suited to the match situation – steered their side from danger.
Rashid made 99 – the second man in the match to suffer that fate after Tom Cooper in the Somerset first innings – and Bairstow 66, while there were stubborn contributions from pace bowlers Steve Patterson, Tim Bresnan and Liam Plunkett as the lower-order rallied in the clement conditions.
The hosts’ decision to prepare a flat pitch and pick no spinner betrayed the fact they would probably have settled for a draw before the game started, with their victory at Nottinghamshire last week ending a run of three straight defeats and ensuring that parity with the champions was a worthy follow-up.
From Yorkshire’s point of view, the result maintained their unbeaten start to the season – two wins and three draws – and left them third in the table, 12 points behind leaders Durham.
Failure to beat a side they were much stronger than on paper was frustrating for a team who have not yet looked the dominant force that they were last year, but there was satisfaction to be derived from the resilient rearguard masterminded by Bairstow and Rashid.
Both have spent much time lately kicking their heels having been deemed surplus to requirements on the West Indies tour, when they worked on their fitness, patience and drinks-carrying skills.
In Bairstow’s case, however, one would not have known he had suffered a spell of enforced inactivity, for he followed innings of 102 and 59 on his return to action in the previous Championship match against Hampshire at Headingley with 50 and that 66 here.
Particularly impressive was the way that Bairstow reined in his natural aggression, so evident during his hundred against Hampshire, to frustrate a Somerset side who really needed to get him out early on day four to stand a good chance.
Bairstow doubled his score from 33 overnight, but just as important was the time he occupied the crease; not until 12.20pm was he dismissed, the only wicket in the morning session, when he edged a drive off Alfonso Thomas to wicketkeeper Alex Barrow.
On a gorgeous morning of cobalt blue skies and milky white clouds, blown along by a refreshing breeze, Somerset’s hopes largely rested with the second new ball, which was available after 12 overs.
As so often happens, however, it only disappeared to the boundary faster than the old one, Bairstow proving it with a delightful clipped leg-side four off Peter Trego.
Rashid, who has scored three of his nine first-class centuries against Somerset, was typically strong through the leg-side, whipping the ball with wristy aplomb.
He reached his half-century from 137 balls and had 71 to his name by lunch, at which point Yorkshire were on much safer ground at 275-6, a lead of 228.
After his stand with Bairstow, Rashid found another ally in Tim Bresnan, with whom he added 89 in 23 overs.
Bresnan made 29 before falling lbw to the part-time off-spin of Johann Myburgh, who returned his team’s best figures of 3-57 to show what might have been possible had Somerset been bolder in terms of selection.
Another hundred against Somerset was Rashid’s for the taking, but, much to his chagrin, he flicked a short ball from Myburgh straight into the hands of Thomas at backward square.
Like Cooper, Rashid had almost to drag himself from the field after an innings that comprised 198 balls and included 12 fours.
Plunkett was badly dropped on six by Jamie Overton at mid-on off Cooper, which would have left Yorkshire 337-9 and only 290 ahead with 45 overs left.
By the time Plunkett was run-out after pushing to mid-on only to be sent back by Patterson, Somerset’s last hope of a run-chase had realistically gone.
Brooks was last out, caught behind after a 10th-wicket stand of 64 in 24 overs with Patterson, who finished on 44 from 106 balls with seven fours.
Marcus Trescothick slapped Glenn Maxwell to mid-wicket before hands were shaken two overs into the hosts’ second innings.