Rain thwarts Yorkshire CCC as winless run continues

AFTER 371 days without a County Championship victory, Yorkshire could afford to wait for a few more hours in the hope that the rain would relent at the County Ground in Hove.

It did, but not for long enough to permit play and for Yorkshire to knock off the 63 more runs they needed with seven wickets left in pursuit of a target of 201.

Play was called off at 4.45pm, after a near six-hour delay and several pitch inspections, much to Yorkshire’s obvious frustration.

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They have not won since Ottis Gibson’s first game as head coach against Gloucestershire at Bristol in April last year, their run of 15 Championship matches without victory equalling the third-longest drought in the club’s history in 1971, and behind only a 16-game sequence in 1989-90 and one of 20 matches in 2008-09.

Rain had the final word at Hove. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images.Rain had the final word at Hove. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images.
Rain had the final word at Hove. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images.

Gibson, naturally, was a disappointed man as an excellent opportunity went begging on the coast.

Although it could not be said for certain that Yorkshire would have won (stranger things have happened at Sussex-by-the-sea), that they were clear favourites to do so could not be disputed.

Instead, after defeat to Leicestershire in their opening game, themselves winless in the tournament for 19 months, followed by a total washout in Bristol, Yorkshire have yet to get their season off the ground.

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To add to the frustration, they sit out this week’s round of Division Two fixtures.

Ben Coad had helped to bring Yorkshire back into the game. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images.Ben Coad had helped to bring Yorkshire back into the game. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images.
Ben Coad had helped to bring Yorkshire back into the game. Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images.

“I wish the sun was as warm as it is at home in Barbados, so it could dry the ground a bit quicker and we’d have got even 40 minutes in this evening,” reflected Gibson, whose side will use some of their week off to practise their skills for the T20 Blast.

“That probably would have been enough for us to get the job done, but it’s not to be.

“We played well, and that’s what I’ve said to the guys. They showed a lot of skill, great character and fighting spirit and togetherness as well.”

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This was an intriguing, imperfect, occasionally fractious contest, one in which Sussex held the upper hand at halfway and Yorkshire most of the aces when play was abandoned.

At 239-9 in response to Sussex’s first innings 361, Yorkshire did well to come back spiritedly, spearheaded by Ben Coad’s swashbuckling 45 in a last-wicket partnership of 59 with Mickey Edwards, and then by a much better performance collectively with the ball.

There are still areas to improve - a couple of chances were missed in the field yet again, which would have brought the target down even further, and there was disappointment on debut for new overseas signing Saud Shakeel (3 and 6), although that can happen to anyone, Test player or otherwise.

An inactive week is perhaps not really what Yorkshire need as they seek to build on their efforts in the game’s second half, but they hope to be boosted by the return of Jonny Bairstow for their next Championship match, against Glamorgan at Headingley, starting on May 4, after his broken leg and dislocated ankle.

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As reported last week, Bairstow will play in the second XI match against Nottinghamshire at Headingley, starting on Tuesday, Gibson saying: “We’ll go and have a look at him and see how he goes.

“He’s had such a long lay-off, so it’s a fitness assessment for him to see what his capacity is and what he can do on the field in terms of running around in the outfield or standing behind the stumps. He will probably do both to see which one he’s most comfortable with.”

Yorkshire will not have Shai Hope for that Glamorgan contest; this was the last of the West Indian’s three-game stint (or rather two games due to the Bristol cancellation).

Hope did well; an impressive 83 against Leicestershire was followed by an unbeaten 53 at Hove, while his wicketkeeping was generally good considering that he was signed as a batsman before Jonny Tattersall fell injured.

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Along with Adam Lyth (69 not out), Hope seemed to be steering Yorkshire home, the pair adding 99 after Yorkshire slipped to 39-3.

However, the game’s major talking point was whether Hope should have been dismissed for nine (which would have left Yorkshire 53-4 and right up against it) when he left a ball from Henry Crocombe which wicketkeeper Oli Carter then rolled back into the stumps, Hope having left his crease to do some gardening.

As Carter’s act of receiving and rolling the ball back was instantaneous, and seemed to happen fractionally before Hope - without looking at anyone - tapped his bat in the crease before walking off up the pitch, one could not understand why he was not given out.

Perhaps it was just as well that the points were shared; certainly the performance of umpires Rob White and Neil Pratt was underwhelming.

Sussex, too, were like a curate’s egg: good in parts, less so in others.

Both teams will feel that they could have won, but only Jupiter Pluvius could claim victory of sorts.