IF YORKSHIRE are to win the County Championship – and it remains no more than an outside chance – then it is essential, one would think, that they win this match.
A visit from bottom club Nottinghamshire – winless in 10 fixtures which have brought seven defeats and three draws – is the equivalent, some would say, of a free gift pitching up in the post.
With only three games left after this, and with 38 points the difference to leaders Essex before start of play, time is running out if third-placed Yorkshire are to overhaul Essex and second-placed Somerset.
Publicly, Yorkshire have said that they are not thinking about winning the title this year, only trying to see progress from a developing team, but you can bet that privately they are thinking about nothing less, particularly given that their T20 campaign has been so disappointing.
To that effect, an opening day total of 232, to which Nottinghamshire replied with 41-0, represented an inconclusive start to this “must-win” fixture, with Yorkshire at one point 38-5.
But Jonny Tattersall, with a Championship-best 92 from 197 balls with nine fours and Tim Bresnan, who hit 58 from 122 deliveries with eight fours, rescued the situation, sharing a sixth-wicket stand of 121.
Yorkshire’s next-highest stand was 26, their batting brittle, as pace bowler Luke Wood took the first five wickets and left-arm spinner Liam Patterson-White four of the last five.
Nottinghamshire, whose own batting has been flakier than a 99 Flake for much of the campaign, fought impressively to the close, openers Ben Slater and Jake Libby surviving the last 17 overs, capping a good day for the visitors that might have been even better.
Conditions in Scarborough were pleasant for much of the day, but it did not take long for a pall of gloom to descend on North Marine Road – at least among those home supporters in a crowd of just over 4,000.
After 59 minutes, Yorkshire were 38-5 following an uncontested toss, the new ball a challenging prospect on a competitive pitch.
The early exchanges were error-strewn and skittish, a hangover, perhaps, from the break for T20. So much so that practically the only things absent were bursts of ear-splitting music and a screaming matchday announcer apparently plugged in to the nearest wall socket, the type of frenzy on which T20 thrives.
The instigator of Yorkshire’s difficulties was Wood, who found plenty of movement from the Trafalgar Square end – not least when removing Adam Lyth with a fine away-swinger that he edged to wicketkeeper Tom Moores.
Having thus struck with the fourth ball of his opening over, the second of the match, the Sheffield-born Wood pounced again with his sixth delivery when Gary Ballance popped one to point.
Wood then bowled Tom Kohler-Cadmore in his second over playing down the wrong line, and, in his third, had Harry Brook caught behind pushing away from his body, leaving Yorkshire 13-4 in the sixth. It should have been 20-5 but Tattersall was dropped on four by Moores, one-handed as he dived to his right. The ball was heading straight to Ben Duckett at first slip from whom Moores’s parry diverted it and sent it on its way to the third-man boundary.
Wood did not have to wait long to claim his fifth wicket, Will Fraine defending to third slip where Chris Nash – standing in as captain for Steven Mullaney (knee) – held on. As he left, Fraine angrily thumped his bat into his pad, the noise reverberating around a ground in which, at that stage, one could hear a pin drop.
Yorkshire revived to 84-5 at lunch, Tattersall reacting to his early reprieve by on-driving Jake Ball for a handsome boundary and Bresnan playing with equal elan. The pair continued largely untroubled after the break, the compact and busy Tattersall raising his third Championship fifty of the season from 103 balls, and Bresnan showing the value of experience by marking his return to the Championship side following a calf injury by reaching his fifty from 99 balls.
It got to the stage where it was less than clear where the next wicket was coming from, but the stand was finally broken when Bresnan, pushing forward, was caught behind off Patterson-White.
Tattersall had just passed his previous Championship-best of 70, against Surrey here last season, when Keshav Maharaj was seventh out, bowled by Luke Fletcher.
Tattersall fell in the fifth over after tea, caught behind trying to guide Patterson-White off the back foot through the offside, and lingered in a fashion that suggested that he did not think he had hit the ball.
Disappointment was etched across his face as he walked off – disappointment soothed by a splendid ovation.