Yorkshire v Kent - Batting points prove little bonus as weather frustrates Yorkshire CCC

THERE ARE few things in sport that feel more pointless than a County Championship match that is going nowhere.

Gary Ballance fell four runs short of a first century since July 2019 after he was run out by a direct hit from Marcus O’Riordan as Dom Bess, centre, looks on. (Picture: Dave Williams)
Gary Ballance fell four runs short of a first century since July 2019 after he was run out by a direct hit from Marcus O’Riordan as Dom Bess, centre, looks on. (Picture: Dave Williams)

Granted, there are often bonus points to play for, as there were in this case, but without the prospect of a positive result it is difficult to get too enthused about things.

Just as humanity has yet to find a cure for the common cold, let alone for the dreaded you know what, so it has still to work out what to do with the last day of a Championship game that is drifting aimlessly.

To call things off early could deprive teams of points, while there is also the paying public to consider (or at least there usually is), and no obvious solution to the dilemma.

Gary Ballance fell for 96 (Picture: Dave Williams)

And so the cricketers of Yorkshire and Kent, this match already consigned to an inevitable draw because of the weather, took to the field at 2.45 on the final afternoon in front of a deserted ground beneath overcast skies.

Yorkshire’s first innings stood at 240-5, just as it had since stumps on the second evening before rain washed out the third day’s play and left the outfield so wet that more than half of yesterday’s play was lost too.

Seventy-seven overs of the innings had been bowled, which meant that there were 33 left in which to accumulate further bonus points before the 110-over cut-off mark.

Yorkshire pocketed a further two points for reaching 250 and then 300, the hosts bowled out for 321 in reply to Kent’s first innings 305, at which point there really was no point and hands were shaken.

Dom Bess batting for Yorkshire on day four against Kent (Picture: Dave Williams)

“It’s been a frustrating few days really,” said Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire first-team coach, whose side are second in Championship Group Three at the halfway stage, seven points behind leaders Lancashire.

“You come out of last week’s game when you’re absolutely buzzing (after Yorkshire beat Northants by one run), and then you feel almost a bit deflated this week because you haven’t been able to have a proper crack at it.

“But we’re in a decent place in the group, and I’m happy with the character and attitude that we’ve shown towards our cricket. We’ve won some real tight games that could have gone against us, and it’s always a good sign when you’re winning and not playing your best as well, so pretty pleased at the halfway stage.”

The only real interest going into day four, assuming that bonus points do not float your boat, was whether Gary Ballance – left stranded on 91 for nearly 48 hours – could register his 41st first-class hundred and his first since July 2019.

The answer was no.

At 3pm precisely, with the floodlights beating down as they would at a Saturday afternoon football match in winter, Dominic Bess pushed out a ball from the New Zealand pace bowler Matt Quinn to backward-point, and Ballance was run out for 96 by a direct hit from Marcus O’Riordan as he ran towards the danger end following brief hesitation between the two batsmen.

Technically, it was Ballance’s call with the ball having travelled behind square, and he simply carried on walking back to the pavilion without breaking his stride or turning round to look at his partner.

It was an unfortunate end to a fine innings, one that spanned 201 balls and included 14 fours and a six, and it left Yorkshire 246-6.

Bess, who had four to his name going into the day, advanced to 15 before he was seventh out at 256, Darren Stevens knocking out his off stump as he played inside the line of a delivery that shaped away a touch.

Jordan Thompson played watchfully at first, taking 23 deliveries to get off the mark, which he did by turning Stevens to backward square-leg for a single.

Thompson then played perhaps the stroke of the truncated day, crunching the West Indian pace bowler Miguel Cummins to the mid-on boundary at the Kirkstall Lane end, the ball speeding across the turf so quickly that it would have triggered a motorway speed camera.

Steve Patterson also threw the kitchen sink at a ball from pace bowler Nathan Gilchrist only to edge an attempted cut to wicketkeeper Ollie Robinson in the last over before tea, which Yorkshire took at 269-8.

Ben Coad is no mug with the bat, as he has often proved, and Yorkshire’s No 10 played two handsome strokes when Gilchrist completed his unfinished over after the break, cover-driving him to the West Stand boundary and then punching him for four square on the off-side.

Coad then dispatched Cummins for four on the up through the covers, at which point even Joe Root, looking on from the pavilion, might have cast an envious glace in the tail-ender’s direction.

Thompson was caught behind pushing at Gilchrist soon after the 300 had been raised, and Duanne Olivier was last out when he lofted former Yorkshire batsman Jack Leaning’s off-spin to long-on.

Coad finished with 33, Gilchrist with 4-74, and a mostly pointless day passed into the pages of history – bonus points excepted.

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