BY FAR the most interesting thing that Dawid Malan said after scoring 199 on the third day of this match, assuming that we take as read his desire to win back his Test place, was the challenge that awaited his Yorkshire colleague Dom Bess on day four.
Reflecting on the batsman-friendly conditions at Emerald Headingley, Malan said: “There’s hardly been any movement.
“Hopefully it breaks up a bit tomorrow and Dom can show what a quality spinner he is and put us in a position to win the game.
“It’s not turning by any imagination, but for him to come here and have to work batsmen out and find a way to win a game, it’s a fantastic situation for him to be in.”
Malan was highlighting the essence of the matter, which was that if Yorkshire were to find a way to win on a surface on which 909 runs had been scored for the loss of only 20 wickets, then Bess would have to do the bulk of the heavy lifting and find a way to take wickets in conditions that would only assist his development, both for Yorkshire and potentially at international level.
For on a final day that will live long in the memory of those Yorkshire members and supporters who had been deprived of live cricket for more than 20 months, Bess was the catalyst for a win –sealed by an innings and 30 runs with just 32 balls left – that closed the gap on leaders Lancashire to four points and increased the probability that both Roses rivals will be playing in Division One later in the year.
Not only did Bess take two of the first three wickets, after Sussex had resumed on 38-0 in their second innings, 207 runs short of making Yorkshire bat again, he blew the door open as surely as a stick of dynamite blows open a safe, producing a double-wicket maiden deep into the evening session just when it seemed that Sussex would leave with a draw.
The clock was on the stroke of 5pm, the total was 180-4, and there were 22 overs left in the contest when Bess ran in to bowl the opening ball of his 30th over.
It was floated up invitingly outside the off stump and Aaron Thomason, the Sussex No 4 who had just grafted over a four-hour half-century, drove hard and loose at it, edging to first slip, where Adam Lyth took a reflex catch to his left.
It was a fine delivery, a pretty poor shot given the circumstances, and it was followed three balls later by the wicket of Danial Ibrahim, who became the youngest half-century maker in the Championship’s 131-year history earlier in the match, aged 16 years and 299 days.
Sport is a great leveller, as Ibrahim can now attest, the schoolboy falling to the same Bess/Lyth combination as he tried to defend.
Then it was over to David Willey.
Yorkshire’s Twenty20 captain, bowling from the Kirkstall Lane end, also produced a double-wicket maiden when Jack Carson was caught at the second attempt by Jordan Thompson at leg gully and Stuart Meaker held by Harry Brook as he fended to short-leg.
When Willey bounced out Henry Crocombe in his next over, Sussex, now 187-9, had lost 5-7 in 32 balls and there were 16.4 overs of the contest remaining.
The match looked as good as over, but it is never quite that simple.
Bess dropped a catch – a desperately tough one at leg slip, diving to his right one-handed, when Brown glanced away a delivery from Thompson. The resulting damage briefly forced Bess off for treatment and he did not bowl again, his work done after fine figures of 35-15-51-4.
Eventually, amid mounting tension and with the floodlights beaming down, Steve Patterson took the final wicket at 6.15pm, bowling opposite number Ben Brown.
Yorkshire’s celebrations were suitably animated, and they are rapidly becoming masters at winning close matches – not a bad trait to have.
For all that one must praise Patterson and his players, one should also acknowledge a great fight from Sussex.
To come so close to achieving a draw was a courageous performance, especially with two debutants in their XI and seven players aged 23 or under, players who boasted a combined 63 first-class appearances.
One of those debutants, Ali Orr, was in occupation at the start of an overcast day four, having added an unbroken 38 with opening partner Tom Haines on the third evening from 23 overs.
That resilience had given Sussex hope, and the 20-year-old Orr knuckled down again, the first-wicket stand having climbed to 60 when Bess got one to bounce and take the shoulder of Haines’s bat, a diving Lyth obliging at slip.
Thompson had Stiaan van Zyl caught behind for a golden duck, but Orr went to a fine half-century as Sussex lunched on 105-2. Orr finally fell for the top score of 67 one hour into the afternoon session, bowled by Bess as he tried to drive a well-flighted delivery, his innings spanning 216 balls and lasting for four-and-a-half hours.
Travis Head also played a loose shot, driving Coad to Tom Kohler-Cadmore at first slip, before the Bess-inspired drama of a memorable evening.
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