Yorkshire’s title dreams ripped apart by Essex

YES, there were positives; there always are.

Yorkshire's Steve Patterson. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Matt Fisher, for example, who bowled well on his first appearance of the season after back and thumb injuries.

Harry Brook batted nicely in the first innings, top-scoring with 46 and using his feet to counter the threat of spinner Simon Harmer, justifying his selection at the expense of Jack Leaning.

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Ben Coad and Steve Patterson were economical with the ball but looked somewhat tired after a hectic schedule, while Coad did not bowl in the second innings due to a sore calf.

Keshav Maharaj bowled tidily but lacked the bite and venom of opposite number Harmer, and he also top-scored with a thunderous 85 in the second innings from No 8, an act of defiance that at least brought a crumb of respectability to proceedings.

But, that apart, it would be clutching at straws to say that Yorkshire were anything other than comprehensively thumped by Essex at Chelmsford, losing by eight wickets inside three days to effectively end their interest in the title race.

The result was especially disappointing given how well Yorkshire had played against Surrey at Scarborough the previous week.

They won at North Marine Road with just 10 balls of the match left, climbing to third in the table ahead of their meeting here with the second-placed side.

However, a familiar story of soft dismissals cost them again. Seasons come and seasons go, but Yorkshire seem no closer to achieving consistency from a batting unit which does not give their bowlers enough runs to work with.

“We’re obviously very disappointed,” said Yorkshire captain Steve Patterson. “We came down here on the back of a fantastic win at Scarborough, one of the best we’ve had in a number of years, so obviously we had a bit of confidence. We knew it was going to be hard work against a good side on a pitch that would offer a result, but the way we batted over the two innings, we didn’t give ourselves a chance to put ourselves ahead of the game.

“We were always coming from behind and trying to claw it back, and, unfortunately, they took us out of the game.”

Yorkshire’s task looked forlorn when they began the day on 38-3 in their second innings, still 82 short of making their opponents bat again.

There was a distinct change in the weather from the first two days, which had been played out in mainly glorious sunshine.

Now the skies were autumnal grey, the light marginal, and there was a distinct nip in a swirling breeze. In other words, it felt like a bowling day.

Alas, there was not enough resilience when it really mattered against the only serious challengers now to leaders Somerset, who are Yorkshire’s next opponents at Headingley from Saturday.

Adam Lyth was lbw in the day’s fourth over, trapped playing back to a ball from Jamie Porter. Brook was another lbw victim, missing a straight one from Peter Siddle during an opening burst of 5-4-1-1 from the River End.

Jonny Tattersall and Fisher added 23 in 12 overs before Tattersall was caught at leg slip by Dan Lawrence off Harmer, kicking the ground in frustration as he went.

Fisher was less culpable in his dismissal to Harmer, lbw pushing forward as he tried to smother the spin from around the wicket.

Maharaj decided that the best strategy against Harmer was to try to swat him to the leg-side boundary as often as possible, a cunning plan, as Baldrick might have said.

The right-hander pulled him for four, lofted him for six over mid-wicket and swatted him for another four in the same direction, towards the pavilion.

At lunch, Yorkshire had staggered up to 116-7, still four behind, whereupon a predominantly elderly crowd were treated to the incongruous sight of young girls dancing on the outfield to loud music. Had the Vitality Blast arrived two weeks ahead of schedule? No, it was some kind of marketing malarkey beyond wit or description.

Patterson fell in the sixth over after lunch, caught low down at first slip by Alastair Cook off Porter.

Maharaj lashed Harmer for two sixes in an over – one straight, the other over mid-wicket – and in between was badly dropped on 43 at deep mid-wicket by Siddle, the ball trickling for four.

The South African went to his fifty from 46 balls and celebrated with a fourth six off Harmer over mid-wicket into the pavilion, and then a fifth straight back over Porter’s head into the Hayes Close End.

But after adding 64 for the ninth wicket with Coad in 9.2 overs, the fun and games ended when Maharaj was bowled by Siddle, having faced 71 balls and hit seven fours to go with the sixes.

Coad was last out with the score on 211, caught at first slip by Cook off Porter, leaving Essex 92 to win with 42 overs left in the day.

Cook might have gone in the second over of the pursuit, dropped on nought at first slip by Tom Kohler-Cadmore as he dived to his right off Patterson, before the same combination accounted for Cook when he had six.

Tom Westley was stumped charging Maharaj, but Nick Browne and Dan Lawrence completed the formalities.