‘We might look back at end of season and think we were one wicket away from potentially winning the Championship’ - Yorkshire CCC coach Andrew Gale

Yorkshire's Andrew Gale. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comYorkshire's Andrew Gale. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Yorkshire's Andrew Gale. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
WAS this the day when Yorkshire’s hopes of winning the County Championship died a death for another year?

Only time will tell, but the implications were as clear as the disappointment etched on to the faces of Steve Patterson and his players as they left the field at the Ageas Bowl, having been held to a draw by a Hampshire team who improbably escaped with nine wickets down.

Failure to capitalise on a promising position – Hampshire were 26-2 at the start of day four, requiring a further 367 for victory or, in reality, needing to bat out the final 96 overs – means that Yorkshire will almost certainly have to win their remaining three games to take the title, at home to Somerset and Warwickshire, then away to Nottinghamshire.

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Although that aspiration is not beyond them, the challenge is stiff and the weather unpredictable at this time of the year, leaving little or no margin for error.

This was a key opportunity missed, despite the conditions, with the pitch at the Ageas Bowl going slow and low, as it is prone to do and has done all season.

It remains, in truth, the dullest of venues for first-class cricket, the sort more likely to drive fans away than to draw them in.

There was more life, indeed, in a crowd numbering around 500, who watched the proverbial blockathon as Hampshire reached 177-9 from 115 overs when hands were shaken at 6.23pm.

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The last-wicket pair of Kyle Abbott and Brad Wheal, who had both suffered injuries that had left them unable to bowl on day three, survived the final 46 balls in a tense finish, a number of Yorkshire players sinking to their knees once Abbott had kept out the final delivery.

When a nightwatchman can keep up his end for two whole sessions, as did the leg-spinner Mason Crane en route to 28 from 197 balls in 250 minutes, the nature of the surface speaks for itself, albeit Crane performed with exceptional resolve.

“The lads are gutted,” said Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire first team coach. “It was probably our best performance of the season all round; we dominated the game, and I don’t think we could have done much more.

“We tried our best. We tried all different types of plans, but they showed a lot of character and the pitch lost its pace. Who knows, we might look back on this at the end of the season and think that we were one wicket away from potentially winning the Championship, but we’re not out of it yet, by any means.”

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Beneath overcast skies, with the floodlights on from the start, Hampshire continued their mission to bat out time. Only 50 runs came in the morning session in 32 overs, Hampshire losing just the one wicket prior to lunch when Jordan Thompson struck 15 minutes before the break, Joe Weatherley leg-before playing around his front pad.

Weatherley had 16 at the start of the day and he walked off having made 43 from 137 balls with seven fours, the tall right-hander sweeping off-spinner Dom Bess for four on the final morning and also cover-driving him to the boundary.

Crane had yet to open his account going into the day but he battled through the morning session for 10 runs from 101 balls faced, showing a dogged defence and a commendable temperament, irritating Yorkshire as surely as a pesky fly.

Hampshire lunched on 76-3 and they lost their fourth wicket 20 minutes after the break when Nick Gubbins made a mess of an attempted pull off Matthew Fisher and spooned the ball back to the bowler, who leapt up and caught it in his right hand.

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It was Yorkshire’s one success of the afternoon, Patterson rotating his bowlers and improvising his fields in an effort to make something – anything – happen.

At tea, Hampshire were 120-4, with Crane still there on 28. He needed only two more for a career-best but fell to the 11th delivery after the interval, Yorkshire immediately taking the second new ball on the resumption with Crane steering it into the hands of Adam Lyth at second slip off Fisher.

Fisher struck again in his next over, pinning Liam Dawson in front as he propped forward, and Hampshire lost their seventh wicket when Thompson bowled Lewis McManus past his outside edge. Thompson, who was superb, drew an injudicious prod outside off stump by Keith Barker, who edged to wicketkeeper Harry Duke, who was in the wars when a short ball from Patterson struck him on the helmet as he stood up to the stumps and whose busyness was infectious.

There were 16.3 overs left when Barker was dismissed, and 7.4 remained when Hampshire’s ninth wicket fell, the key one of captain James Vince.

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Thompson, operating from the Pavilion End, trapped him leg-before playing neither forward nor back, Vince having resisted for three-and-a-half hours to make 42 from 151 balls.

Thompson thought he had won it when his next delivery rapped last man Wheal on the pads, umpire Nigel Llong rejecting what looked like a pretty good shout, although there was possibly a bit of bat involved.

Yorkshire were forced to bowl double spin from six overs out as the light closed in, Bess and Lyth operating in tandem, but, try as they might, the visitors were not quite able to get across the line.

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