“It looks like a draw, but you never know.”
The gentleman summed up the simultaneous optimism and realism of the cricket follower.
On the one hand, it could be a day when something remarkable happens; on the other, it could be eminently forgettable and thoroughly dull.
The state of play as the supporter headed for his seat was this: Yorkshire were 425-5 in reply to Essex’s first innings score of 403.
It was the final day of a match which, but for an unbroken stand of 210 between Yorkshire’s Harry Brook and Dawid Malan from just 290 balls, had meandered along at little more than two runs per over on a slow and flat pitch, Essex having shown little inclination to try and win the game.
The odds were on a draw and an early handshake, but if Yorkshire could knock up a few quick runs and get a big enough lead, they could potentially put Essex under pressure in their second innings. A thin crowd reflected the probable outcome, not least because the day was sunny and perfect for cricket watching.
Alas, this was not a day when strange things happened, save for Sir Alastair Cook recording two centuries in a match for the first time in his career (strange only because one assumed that he must already have done so).
As expected, the match petered out, albeit not in the way that most had envisaged.
The likelihood that Yorkshire would indeed hit up some quick runs, which had seemed the only guarantee, did not come to pass, rendering any prospect of them getting a big enough lead to try to force the win irrelevant in any case.
Instead, after they lost their last five wickets for 40 runs in 19.2 overs, to be bowled out for 465 forty minutes before lunch, Essex first chalked off the 62-run deficit in 22 overs before going on to a closing total of 167-0, an academic advantage of 105 before hands were shaken at 4.50pm.
For Yorkshire, it was a third successive draw after they had opened their season with a six-wicket win against Gloucestershire in Bristol. For Essex, it was also a third draw to go with one victory and one defeat.
For a crowd of several hundred who watched the last rites, like family members gathered around a loved one taking his last breaths, this was not a match that will live in the memory.
Only one side (Yorkshire) had seemed interested in winning, although there were fine hundreds from Harry Brook and Paul Walter in addition to those of Cook, with the fact that Walter was dropped twice in the first innings indicative of Yorkshire’s main shortcoming here, their catching, with at least half-a-dozen opportunities going to ground.
Yorkshire’s hopes of making hay while the morning sun shone were dealt a blow when Dawid Malan fell to the day’s second ball, the left-hander clipping a leg-stump half volley from Shane Snater to square leg having not added to his overnight 87.
Malan could have helped provide the aggression needed to make something happen, but Yorkshire managed just eight runs in the first eight overs, a tribute to some accurate bowling from Snater and Sam Cook. The introduction of Simon Harmer for the day’s ninth over broke the inertia, nine runs coming from it including a reverse-sweep for four by Harry Duke.
Duke then had a remarkable escape when a ball from Sam Cook struck his off stump firmly but somehow failed to dislodge either bail, as if they had been stuck on to the stumps with superglue. Duke’s reprieve was short-lived as, in trying another reverse-sweep off Harmer, he hit the ball straight up in the air and was caught by Alastair Cook running round and diving to his left from slip.
Brook had lifted his overnight 110 to 123 when he was eighth out, caught behind trying to uppercut Sam Cook, having made his runs from 152 balls with 11 fours and two sixes. Jordan Thompson was bowled for a sixth-ball duck trying to force Harmer through the offside off the back foot, and the innings ended when a driving Dom Bess was caught behind off Snater.
Yorkshire’s lead was neither one thing nor the other, the game effectively dead in the water.
Essex accumulated steadily in the sleepy afternoon as the pitch offered nothing. Chief interested focused on whether Sir Alastair Cook could follow his first innings 107 with another three-figure score.
He got there from 178 balls by pulling a Joe Root long-hop for his 11th boundary, Nick Browne finishing unbeaten on 50.