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When Steve Patterson joined Matthew Fisher at the crease yesterday, Yorkshire were 96-7 chasing 175 to win.
It looked for all the world as though the home side were slipping to a fourth defeat in seven County Championship games, which would have left them in serious relegation peril.
They cannot breathe a final sigh of relief just yet, going into their last match of the season against Essex at Chelmsford on Monday 18 points above the drop zone, but they took a giant step towards safety with a tense two-wicket win over bottom club Warwickshire.
Patterson (44 not out) and Fisher (15) added 78 for the eighth wicket in 24 overs, showing exactly the heart and spirit required.
Defeat would have sent Yorkshire to Chelmsford only two points above the relegation zone and second-bottom Somerset.
As it is, they only need six points from the match to guarantee survival (bonus points would do), a total that would come down with any point that Somerset drop in their match with Middlesex at Taunton.
This game was perfectly poised when play began yesterday in glorious sunshine.
Yorkshire were 56-3, requiring a further 119 for their first Championship win since mid-June – a three-run triumph over Somerset at Taunton that could well turn out to be a pivotal result.
Warwickshire, for whom this was a ninth defeat in 13 Championship games, had been buoyed by the wicket of West Indies batsman Kraigg Brathwaite in the final over of day three, off-spinner Jeetan Patel having him caught at short-leg.
With Patel getting plenty of spin from the Kirkstall Lane end, the New Zealander was clearly the main threat to Yorkshire’s hopes of a fourth victory of the Championship campaign.
And it was Patel who struck a key blow inside the opening half hour when he had Gary Ballance lbw, the Yorkshire captain having added only five to his overnight score of 16.
An important double strike followed when Patel removed Jack Leaning and Tim Bresnan in successive overs, leaving the hosts 86-6.
Leaning, having gone down the track to thump Patel’s previous ball to the mid-wicket boundary, was caught around the corner off the full face of the bat by Ian Bell, who moved sharply to his left at leg slip.
Bresnan’s shot was a poor one in the circumstances, the vice-captain trying to smash Patel over the leg-side and into the middle of next week only to pick out Alex Thomson at deep mid-wicket, thus falling for a sixth duck in 15 Championship innings this year.
Yorkshire fell to 96-7 when Patel showed his prowess in the slips, taking a good low catch at first when Andrew Hodd pushed at a ball from Ryan Sidebottom.
It was probably a ball that Hodd did not need to play, and he betrayed his frustration by banging his bat into the turf.
With Patel turning it prodigiously, few would have given Yorkshire much hope from 96-7, but Patterson and Fisher showed tremendous character.
Fisher revealed his quality by upper-cutting pace bowler Sidebottom for four, Patterson following suit by punching the Australian to the cover boundary.
While Patel wheeled away unchanged from the Kirkstall Lane end, Warwickshire rotated at the Rugby Stand side, where a short spell for Boyd Rankin proved unsuccessful.
Patterson cut him for four, square-drove him to the boundary and then punched him to the cover rope as the former England man struggled to find his line and length.
By lunch, Patterson and Fisher had taken their stand to 45 and the total to 141, just 34 short of the winning line.
Any fears that the interval might disturb Yorkshire’s progress were immediately quashed on the resumption when Patterson cover-drove Patel to the boundary with a regal flourish.
He repeated the feat in Patel’s next over, the “Beverley Bradman” batting with increasing confidence.
As Yorkshire closed in on their target, cheered on by a suitably partisan crowd, two sets of four byes off Patel were the last thing that Warwickshire needed.
It took the number of extras to 40, a notable figure given the low target.
When Patterson pulled Wright to the boundary, the scores were level and the game was in the bag, but Fisher fell in Patel’s next over when he was also caught around the corner by leg-slip Bell.
Fisher had batted 98 minutes and faced 70 balls, the 19-year-old receiving a rousing reception as he left the field.
Fittingly, Patterson hit the winning runs, cutting Wright to the boundary in front of the West Stand to spark wild celebrations – not least from non-striker Jack Brooks.
Patterson, who batted 92 minutes and hit nine fours in a 78-ball innings, walked off with the air of a man for whom it was all in a day’s work, rather sheepishly delivering a thumbs-up to the cheering crowd.
Barely had the applause subsided than the Yorkshire players reappeared to give retiring pace bowler Ryan Sidebottom a guard of honour.
Sidebottom remains a doubt for the Essex match with the quad injury that denied him one last Headingley hurrah, with a fitness test planned for tomorrow.