YORKSHIRE captain Andrew Gale admitted his side’s draw with champions Durham felt “almost like a loss” after they missed a good chance to put clear daylight between themselves and the rest of the County Championship First Division.
Yorkshire went back to the top of the table with a result that sent them five points clear of second-placed Nottinghamshire with five games to play.
But Yorkshire would have gone 16 points in front had they pulled off a win against the team that pipped them to last year’s title.
However, a number of half-chances – most notably when former England pace bowler Tim Bresnan dropped Michael Richardson on 27 at cover off Steve Patterson – proved crucial in the final analysis, Richardson going on to top score with 95 as Durham ended on 323-8 in their second innings, a lead of 128.
“It felt almost like a loss in the end,” conceded Gale.
“To not get over the line and get the win I thought we deserved is disappointing.
“I couldn’t have asked for any more from the lads with the ball – I thought they put the ball in the right areas consistently – and the only thing you can criticise really is the half chances that went down. But they’re the half chances, if you’re going to win the Championship, that you need to take.”
Bresnan, who lost his Test place last winter and looks no closer to reclaiming it, was fielding at short cover when he spilled Richardson midway through the morning as he dived to his left.
It would have left Durham 129-3 and removed the man whose innings Gale described as “the difference really between winning and drawing”.
Wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow also got a hand on a very tough chance, diving one-handed to his left, when Richardson tickled Patterson down the leg-side when he had made 36.
Bairstow later got a glove on another tough one, diving to his right off Jack Brooks, as Paul Coughlin was reprieved on five, while Adil Rashid was unable to accept a difficult return catch off John Hastings, although both batsmen fell almost immediately in any event, with the Bresnan chance the most significant in the final analysis.
Bresnan later misfielded dreadfully during an afternoon session in which Gale described the fielding as “uncharacteristically sloppy”, with opening batsman Mark Stoneman (86) and Phil Mustard (57 not out) the other key contributors as Durham escaped with a result which, to them, would have felt like a win.
Yorkshire were the better side and Gale correctly insisted there were “plenty of positives to take from the game”, most notably the performance of Rashid. The leg-spinner, who returned his best figures for 13 months with 4-73 in the first innings as Durham were forced to follow-on, followed up with 2-85 from 33 overs yesterday and several times beat the bat without reward.
“That’s the best he’s bowled for a few years,” contended Gale, who was delighted with Rashid’s attacking attitude.
“The pitch helped him – there was some turn there and you don’t usually find that at Headingley – and it was the Adil Rashid of four or five years ago, the wicket-taking Rashid that we all like to see”.
Gale was also pleased with the performance of Brooks, who returned Yorkshire’s best figures yesterday of 4-66.
Brooks – the second-highest wicket-taker in the First Division behind Sussex’s Steve Magoffin (47) – got the ball rolling here in glorious sunshine when he struck with his first ball of the morning in the day’s second over, trapping Scott Borthwick lbw as he offered no shot.
Stoneman, 35 overnight, got into his stride with successive fours off Bresnan, which appeared as effortless as shelling peas as he pulled to the boundary and then leant into an easy-as-child’s-play cover drive.
After Bresnan dropped Richardson, it took the introduction of part-time off-spinner Adam Lyth to break Richardson’s stand of 86 with Stoneman, who was trapped lbw pushing forward after an innings that comprised 165 balls and included 10 fours.
Durham went into lunch on 163-3, 32 behind, and they lost their fourth wicket to the fourth delivery after the break when Rashid had Gordon Muchall lbw.
Rashid struck again with the total on 210 when he had Paul Collingwood caught behind, at which point Durham were effectively 15-5 with 43.3 overs still left in the game.
Forty runs had been added when Brooks bowled Richardson playing down the wrong line, and the former Northamptonshire man added the scalps of Hastings, strangled down the leg-side, and Coughlin lbw, after tea.
Mustard – who resisted for just over two hours, faced 87 balls and hit 10 fours – and Mark Wood added 33 in 15.1 overs before the sides shook hands with 11 overs of the day’s allocation outstanding.