Yorkshire hold their nerve to escape with a draw on a tense final day

THIS was a day when Yorkshire fans went through the gamut of emotions.

At first, there was just a chance – an outside chance – that they would witness something truly historic at Headingley.

Set 492 for victory, and with 96 overs to bat, they watched their side play well for two sessions – especially captain Adam Lyth – to still be in the hunt (just about) of pulling off an incredible win.

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At tea, the score was 240-2, with Lyth having batted throughout for 135 and with Hill 59.

Glamorgan's Australian batsman Marnus Labuschagne. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comGlamorgan's Australian batsman Marnus Labuschagne. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Glamorgan's Australian batsman Marnus Labuschagne. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

The home team still needed a further 252 from 38 overs at a run-rate of 6.63 per over: very difficult, certainly, but not absolutely out of the question in this “Bazball” age, and despite the fact that it would have been the second-highest chase in Championship history.

The highest, as you may know, is 502-6 by Middlesex to beat Nottinghamshire (including a young Harold Larwood) at Trent Bridge in 1925.

Why, the sports editor remembers it well…

Yorkshire’s highest run-chase feels small by comparison – 406-4 to beat Leicestershire at Grace Road in 2005, when a certain Ottis Gibson was playing for the hosts.

Yorkshire captain Adam Lyth. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comYorkshire captain Adam Lyth. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Yorkshire captain Adam Lyth. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
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The Yorkshire head coach took six wickets in the first innings but went wicketless in the second as an unbeaten 165 from Anthony McGrath steered Yorkshire home.

Back to the present…

Lyth was playing wonderfully and so was young Hill.

They are lovely players to watch in full flow: Lyth, all radiant cover-drives and pulverising pulls; Hill, a stylish operator all around the ground, and with plenty of big hits in his arsenal to boot.

But when their third-wicket stand had reached 138, after Fin Bean had fallen leg-before to the last ball before lunch, and Jonny Bairstow to a slip catch shortly after it, Hill was caught behind off an inside edge, having made a splendid 60 from 102 balls, and then Dawid Malan was lbw working across the line to leave Yorkshire 211 shy of their target with a little over 26 overs remaining.

When Lyth and Dom Bess perished to successive balls, the former lbw for 174, the latter lbw for a king pair on coronation weekend, Yorkshire were 325-6 with a little over 17 overs left, and with a second new-ball just around the corner.

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Suddenly, thoughts of an improbable victory had turned to thoughts of a possible defeat.

It was game on again, and you could sense the nervousness around the ground.

Glamorgan, thwarted by improved batting conditions as the sun looked down on a hitherto showery encounter, noticeably upped the decibel levels and energy in the field.

Bowlers who had been frustrated by Lyth, especially, as he marched to a 30th first-class century, suddenly found an extra yard of pace and an injection of enthusiasm, which had started to wane.

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The complexion of the match had now been transformed. What had Yorkshire in response?

Saud Shakeel and Jordan Thompson attempted to provide the answer.

Shakeel, another of those short-term overseas signings that either goes right or horribly wrong, often the latter, applied his skills to the task at hand.

The Pakistani hit through the covers as though his bat was a wand, reasoning that sensible attack was the best form of defence, and was proceeding to his most significant contribution for Yorkshire to date.

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But after sharing 52 with Thompson at a run-a-ball, and with fears of defeat having started to recede, Shakeel was caught at second slip and, in the same over, Matty Fisher leg-before to leave Yorkshire 377-8 with eight overs remaining.

Glamorgan couldn’t, could they? The stands fell silent...

Enter Mickey Edwards to join the charismatic Thompson.

“The man who makes things happen”, as Thompson is known, was scoring at faster than a run-a-ball, as though, in his mind, he was somehow still going for the colossal target.

His positive approached knocked Glamorgan off their stride; Thompson wasn’t going to stand there like a sitting duck as the fielders encroached and the shadows lengthened.

Thumping drives from a high back-lift, the pose held for effect, frustrated the visitors and heartened the crowd, and as he fashioned a run-a-ball fifty, the temperature cooled.

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But, with seven balls remaining, Edwards was bowled shouldering arms to leave Yorkshire nine-down. Thompson, somehow, kept out the final over from Michael Neser, and the crowd exhaled a sigh of relief.

Glamorgan will rue twice dropping Lyth, on 48 and 69, by James Harris in his follow-through and by Marnus Labuschagne at second slip off Timm van der Gugten.

They should have declared earlier than they did, when they could have exploited more favourable conditions on the third afternoon.

Ifs, buts and maybes… such is the game.