THE MATCH was “in the Gary”, so to speak, going into day three of this Roses battle.
In other words, it was in the balance, the Gary Ballance, with the man himself key to Yorkshire’s hopes of a match-winning lead.
Like a car dangling off the edge of a cliff, the contest was precariously placed, with one false move by either team potentially fatal in the fight to beat the drop.Chris Waters
Ballance already had 53 of his side’s second innings score of 127-3, which had given them an advantage of 84.
Like a car dangling off the edge of a cliff, the contest was precariously placed, with one false move by either team potentially fatal in the fight to beat the drop.
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Ballance went on to 85, the highest score of the innings, and Yorkshire on to 272 all-out, setting the visitors a target of 230.
Lancashire have never chased more to win a Championship Roses game at Headingley, and they were teetering on 109-7 at the end of a fascinating day.
Victory would see the hosts take a giant step towards avoiding relegation with two games left, while defeat would surely spell the end for Lancashire, who have only one game to come, away to Hampshire.
That Yorkshire are within touching distance of a fine victory must feel to them like a victory in itself.
At the end of day one, they were seemingly out of it, with Lancashire 105-0 in reply to their own first innings of 209.
But after advancing to 145-1 on the second morning, Lancashire subsided to 252 all-out as five wickets from Jack Brooks dragged Yorkshire back into it, just as Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s unbeaten hundred had dragged them up to their first innings score.
Lancashire then failed to capitalise on reducing Yorkshire to 27-3 in their second innings - effectively minus 16-3 - as Ballance and Kohler-Cadmore shared what will surely be a decisive fourth-wicket stand of 148.
That stand was not broken until 55 minutes into a sunny third morning, when Kohler-Cadmore was lbw propping forward to left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj.
It was a shame for Kohler-Cadmore, whose departure for 63 denied him the chance to become the first Yorkshire player to make two centuries in a first-class match at Headingley - something that remarkably only one man has ever achieved (Shai Hope of West Indies in last year’s Headingley Test), not that Kohler-Cadmore was even thinking about that or even necessarily cognisant of the prospect.
Lancashire thought that they should have had him out for 53 when he survived as confident an appeal for caught behind off Graham Onions as can ever have been yelled on a first-class ground.
Umpire Rob Bailey stood motionless, like a vertical corpse, much to Onions’s amazement, which was so profound that when Lancashire tried a few minutes later to get the ball changed, they must have wished that they could have changed the umpire as well.
Kohler-Cadmore, 42 overnight, more than played his part in a rousing revival, while Ballance lasted until around half-an-hour before lunch, at which point Maharaj trapped him lbw on the back foot as he tried to play to leg.
Ballance made his runs from 172 balls with 14 fours as he backed up his hundred at Notts last week.
Yorkshire fell to 214-6 just before lunch when Jonny Tattersall was caught behind as he chopped down on a ball from Tom Bailey that took the outside edge, Tattersall surviving for almost an hour.
The last four wickets were shared as Matt Waite was lbw playing around a ball from Onions, Steve Patterson bowled by a delivery from Bailey that took out off stump, Tim Bresnan caught-and-bowled by Maharaj after resisting for two hours, and Brooks held at slip as he attempted to drive Richard Gleeson.
Tea was taken when the innings ended, leaving Lancashire 38 overs to negotiate before stumps.
They were soon in distress, the excellent Coad having Alex Davies caught behind off a flat-footed slash and the impressive Bresnan trapping Karl Brown lbw playing back.
Bresnan was as convinced as Onions had been earlier when he rapped Liam Livingstone on the pads when the batsman had 16 and the score was 55-2.
It looked extremely adjacent to the naked eye, but, once again, umpire Bailey was unmoved.
Brooks had Steven Croft pulling to mid-wicket, an unnecessary shot as the visitors slipped to 66-3, before Brooks bowled Livingstone with a ball that seemed to stay low.
It was a key wicket, and it was followed by two in three deliveries from Coad, who bowled Dane Vilas and trapped Danny Lamb in front.
In his next over, Coad bowled Bailey, leaving Lancashire with a surely insurmountable task.