IT would be too strong to describe this as “one that got away”, but it was a match that Yorkshire might have won had they played a tad better, had more luck with the weather and, crucially, had wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall not dropped a key opportunity on the third evening.
The mantra that sides win, lose and draw together must always hold true, but just as games are often defined by individual brilliance, so they are sometimes influenced by individual error, and although it cannot be stated with certainty that Tattersall’s faux pas was decisive, it certainly felt like a pivotal moment, notwithstanding his usual class and consistency.
Essex were 197-7, having just lost four wickets for seven runs chasing a follow-on target of 241, when Tattersall dropped Peter Siddle on nought off David Willey. Siddle went on to 60 (his highest score and only half-century in two years at Essex), and effectively consigned this game to a draw by sharing 86 for the 10th-wicket with Sam Cook, who contributed a career-best 37 not out to a final score of 309.
By the time that the Essex first innings ended at 12.05 on day four, with 71.1 overs having been lost to rain and bad light across days two and three, there was interest only in whether Yorkshire’s Gary Ballance could score a century for the sixth successive Championship game.
Pursuing Len Hutton’s Yorkshire record of seven, and the all-time Championship record of eight by Denis Compton (although “pursuing” was not really the word as the hosts contented themselves with batting out time), he had 51 and Adam Lyth 56 out of 107-1 when a sudden rainstorm at tea proved terminal in any case.
With more time in the bank, and/or if Lyth had not run him out in the first innings, Ballance might have continued his remarkable sequence.
As it was, a man who professes little interest in “records”, like a modern generation that consumes its music in digital form, he continues to go from strength to strength, having scored 603 runs in nine Championship innings this season at 86.14.
Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire first team coach, could reflect on yet another solid performance from his side, who remain unbeaten and third in the table.
“I think over the last couple of weeks we’ve played some really good cricket,” he said. “Last week (against Hampshire), if we hadn’t lost time we would have won that game.
“Whether we would have won this game I’m not sure because the pitch seemed to flatten out as the game went on, but we were certainly in the box-seat and driving the game.
“I’m pleased with this game because we started well with the opening partnership (of 77) between Will (Fraine) and Lythy (Adam Lyth) on the first day, which set the game up well for us, as opposed to us being something like 20-2 again.
“We had to make them follow-on to get a result really, and we missed an opportunity with dropping Siddle, but these things happen and, overall, there were lots of positives.”
Siddle had 39 and Cook three when Essex resumed in bright sunshine on 252-9
Siddle brought up his fifty with a cover-driven four off Ben Coad, while Cook on-drove Duanne Olivier to the boundary in a manner that belied the fact that his highest score in 23 previous first-class appearances was 14.
Cook, the 21-year-old pace bowler, put that statistic well behind him as he proceeded to ease Coad for four through mid-wicket and then pull his next delivery for six towards the East Stand.
Not until Steve Patterson replaced Coad at the Emerald Stand end did the final wicket fall, Siddle trapped lbw to end a stand that fell just short of Essex’s tenth-wicket record against Yorkshire of 91 by Charles Kortright and Harry Pickett at Leyton in 1894.
Yorkshire lost one wicket in the 12 overs that remained until lunch, Fraine caught at first slip by Sir Alastair Cook off Jamie Porter for a seventh-ball duck.
Fraine, who made a composed 39 in the first innings on his Yorkshire first-class debut, pushed forward to a ball that was well held by the former England Test captain, low to his right, the reflexes still clearly in good working order.
Ballance and Adam Lyth kept things simple as they lifted the Yorkshire lead over 100 before treating the afternoon as a glorified net.
Both were particularly strong on the off-side, Lyth also pulling off-spinner Simon Harmer for six towards the East Stand.
If one was being picky, Yorkshire might have had one or two batsmen convert fifties in the first innings, and they might have bowled and fielded better while Essex were advancing to 190-3 before the flurry of wickets brought the threat of the follow-on.
But, overall, this is a side playing good, solid Championship cricket.