Yorkshire CCC pay the price for cautious declaration in Bristol stalemate

THE timing of a declaration can be difficult to judge. Better to err on the side of caution? Perhaps, although Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum would no doubt disagree.

Yorkshire surely erred on the side of extreme caution at Bristol on Sunday, setting Gloucestershire 498 to win in just under four sessions. To put that into context, Yorkshire have never conceded as many runs to lose a first-class match, and Gloucestershire have never scored as many runs to win one either.

In fact, there have been only two higher chases in the 134-year history of the County Championship, Middlesex scoring 502-6 to beat Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in 1925, and Surrey 501-5 to defeat Kent at Canterbury last year. In addition, Gloucestershire have not won a game in the competition for 19 months, and Yorkshire were pretty much at full strength, while the weather forecast was indifferent to say the least. Still, better to be safe than sorry seemed to be the mantra.

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Ultimately, the success of a declaration can only be measured by the end result. At 6pm, with the stadium bathed in sunshine, the sides shook hands on a draw with Gloucestershire 405-6 from 116 overs. It was a valiant effort by the hosts, with Ollie Price striking 147 and James Bracey 102, the fifth-wicket pair sharing 199 inside 56 overs. For Yorkshire, it was a big chance missed against modest opponents; they will need more ruthlessness, for sure, when such a chance comes again.

Yorkshire captain Shan Masood. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comYorkshire captain Shan Masood. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Yorkshire captain Shan Masood. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

There must have been a few hearts in mouths when Yorkshire drew back the curtains at their team hotel and saw that there had been a decent amount of overnight rain. According to one of the stewards at the entrance to Nevil Road, the sightscreen at the Ashley Down Road end had blown over in the night, such had been the strength of a gale-force wind.

That wind was still in evidence on Monday morning, although its presence - allied to the appearance of blue skies and sunshine - ensured that play got going just 30 minutes late, with eight overs lost. When the groundstaff eventually removed the covering, the wind was still strong enough to whip up one of the sheets being dragged off by a tractor, sending the water on it flying on to the outfield; fortunately, a blotter was on hand to attend to the residue.

Before a sparse crowd, perhaps two men and two dogs in an improvement on the theme, Gloucestershire resumed on 97-4, requiring a further 401. Their cause had been badly damaged in the closing stages of day three when Miles Hammond threw away his wicket and exposed nightwatchman Josh Shaw, who was also sent packing. At two wickets down, Gloucestershire’s hopes of survival had at least seemed unlikely as opposed to unrealistic. Instead, that double blow deflated them and energised Yorkshire, who took to the field with a spring in their heels, although long before the finish that spring had disappeared.

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With the pitch slow and the Kookaburra ball perhaps the worst idea since Abraham Lincoln decided to visit Ford’s Theatre, Washington, in 1865, there was work to be done for the Yorkshire bowlers. Shan Masood rang the changes and got funky with the fields, but Price and Bracey settled in quickly.

Left-arm spinner Dan Moriarty. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comLeft-arm spinner Dan Moriarty. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Left-arm spinner Dan Moriarty. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Bracey stroked the left-arm spinner Dan Moriarty to the cover boundary and then pulled the off-spin of Joe Root for four, while Price - 44 overnight - advanced to a fifty from 104 balls. A whole hour passed before Yorkshire created a chance – or rather half of one, Price edging a good delivery from Moriarty that wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall was unable to grasp at point-blank range.

Price and Bracey safely negotiated the 90-minute session, adding 69 in 25 overs to trim the deficit to 332. After lunch, Yorkshire tested them with short balls and increasingly inventive/desperate fields. Price pulled Fisher for four successive boundaries (three at the end of one over, one at the start of the next), while Bracey reached his half-century from 99 balls with eight fours. It was difficult to see where a wicket was coming from, and the cricket developed a tedious hue.

Certainly there were few interested observers on the balconies of the flats at the Ashley Down Road end, although Claude, a cat well-known to the Gloucestershire patrons, was monitoring proceedings from The Thatchers Bar, evading all efforts to shoo it from the snacks.

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Price went to his hundred from 175 balls with 16 fours, his fourth at first-class level and second against Yorkshire, against whom he hit his first at Headingley last year. A brief shower at 2.30 shaved another two overs from the day’s allocation, and the fifth-wicket duo survived until moments before tea when Ben Coad struck with the second delivery with the second new ball as Price, pushing forward, edged behind.

There was overnight rain at Nevil Road, Bristol. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images.There was overnight rain at Nevil Road, Bristol. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images.
There was overnight rain at Nevil Road, Bristol. Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images.

Bracey reached his century from 198 balls with 14 fours but fell one ball later, Coad inducing another catch to Tattersall. At that stage, 25 overs remained with four wickets to take, but Ben Charlesworth and Graeme van Buuren, the captain, kept the wolves at bay.

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