TO ALL intents and purposes, this match died a death at 4.50pm on the opening day, when Yorkshire’s Jack Brooks trapped Worcestershire’s Ed Barnard lbw to guarantee mathematically that Yorkshire will be playing in the County Championship First Division again next year.
Brooks’s wicket, the sixth of the home side’s first innings, clinched the second bonus point that Yorkshire needed to allay any outside fears that Lancashire could overtake them in the race to avoid relegation by beating Hampshire with maximum points at the Ageas Bowl.
But although this game is now mainly of academic interest, at least to the wider cricketing public, there are still targets to be chased in the shadow of Worcester cathedral.
Worcestershire, in the words of their coach and former Yorkshire batsman Kevin Sharp, are “playing for pride” following recent relegation, while Yorkshire could yet finish fourth for a second successive year, depending on the outcome of the Hampshire game and also Nottinghamshire’s home match with Somerset.
With that in mind, it is Yorkshire who are much the happier at the halfway stage, reaching stumps on 417-9 in their first innings, a lead of 77.
After the hosts were dismissed for 340 in their first innings after starting day two on 319-8, Yorkshire fell to 193-7 before rallying remarkably in a final session in which they plundered 203 in 32 overs as Worcestershire totally lost their way. Gary Ballance led the charge with an unbeaten 189, his third Championship hundred of the season and his highest too, the former captain facing 213 balls and striking 29 fours and two sixes.
Ballance received outstanding support from No 10 Brooks, who contributed 82 from 99 balls with 15 fours (seven of them from his last 12 balls faced), the pair adding 171 inside 27 overs to beat Yorkshire’s previous ninth-wicket best against Worcestershire of 150 by Azeem Rafiq and Matthew Hoggard at this ground in 2009.
On another gorgeous, sun-kissed day, Yorkshire had made an excellent start, Ben Coad striking with the morning’s fourth ball.
Ben Twohig, a 20-year-old left-arm spinner born in Dewsbury, failed to add to his overnight 30, trapped lbw to end a stand of 49 for the ninth-wicket with Josh Tongue, who was unable to bowl in Worcestershire’s calamitous last session due to a foot injury.
Brooks then finished the innings with the final delivery of the sixth over, having Dillon Pennington caught behind to end with 6-94 from 22 overs.
It was Brooks’s second-best return in first-class cricket behind his 6-65 in the 2016 title decider against Middlesex at Lord’s and provided yet more evidence that Yorkshire are going to miss terribly a man who is joining Somerset at the end of the season.Chris Waters
It was Brooks’s second-best return in first-class cricket behind his 6-65 in the 2016 title decider against Middlesex at Lord’s (his subsequent 82 was also his second-highest score behind his unbeaten 109 against Lancashire at Old Trafford last year), and provided yet more evidence that Yorkshire are going to miss terribly a man who is joining Somerset at the end of the season.
When Yorkshire replied, Adam Lyth struck five boundaries off South African pace bowler Wayne Parnell in a whirlwind 27 from 18 balls, before Parnell had his revenge when Lyth – on his 31st birthday – missed a straight one and was lbw.
Jack Leaning, recalled in place of Harry Brook, scrapped hard for half-an-hour before being undone by a jaffa from Tongue, who found late movement to kiss the top of off stump – pretty much the perfect delivery to any batsman, let alone one fighting hard to cement his place.
Jeet Raval’s poor run continued when the New Zealand opener fell in the final over before lunch, chopping on an attempted cut off Twohig. Raval’s 21 was his highest score for Yorkshire in six innings, and the first time that he has passed 20 in 13 first-class innings going back to February.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore, playing against his former club, became Twohig’s second victim when he was trapped lbw playing back to a ball to which, in retrospect, he might have gone forward.
Jonny Tattersall was bowled by Tongue from one that kept low, Tim Bresnan caught low down at second slip by Daryl Mitchell off Pennington, and Steve Patterson bowled by Pennington to leave Yorkshire rocking on 193-7, at which point they were in danger of conceding a sizeable lead.
James Logan – dropped on nought on his first-team debut by Alex Milton at short-leg off Tongue – helped Ballance add 39 before he was lbw pushing forward to Moeen Ali, after which Ballance and Brooks changed the game’s complexion.
Ballance batted with apparent comfort – his third fifty took just 39 balls – and Brooks hit some sparkling strokes before he was caught behind in the penultimate over trying to cut Moeen, who had reverted from his usual off-spin to medium-pace.