Yorkshire will need to draw on fighting spirit

YORKSHIRE captain Andrew Gale's contention prior to this game that "Kent are there for the taking" has not quite worked out that way.

Although Robert Key's men lost their opening County Championship match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, Nottinghamshire are no mean outfit and there was always the likelihood Kent would produce a positive reaction to defeat in the East Midlands.

After Yorkshire had the better of the opening day at Canterbury, Kent fought back tenaciously on day two and then continued their good work yesterday to establish a powerful position.

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The home side go into the final day on 327-7 in their second innings – a lead of 361 – and have almost certainly thwarted the visitors' hopes of a third successive Championship win.

Gale also contended ahead of this fixture that not everything would go as well for Yorkshire as it did during their opening two games against Warwickshire and Somerset.

The 26-year-old is in charge of a young side – Anthony McGrath is the only thirty-something – and one who will know their fair share of poor days as well as good ones.

Gale's team are packed with fighters, however, a quality Yorkshire will need to display in abundance at the St Lawrence ground today.

A draw would by no means be a bad result and would ensure Yorkshire go into Tuesday's home match against champions Durham with only a scintilla of their early-season momentum lost.

Until 2.08pm yesterday, this game was tougher to call than the Leaders' Debate.

It was absolutely neck-and-neck and a terrific advert for the ebbs and flows of the much-maligned Championship.

After Yorkshire resumed on 280-8 in reply to Kent's first innings 317, the home team needed only 33 balls to take the last two wickets to establish a handy lead of 34.

But the pendulum swung back to Yorkshire when Kent slipped from 98-2 in their second innings to 116-5 just after lunch, at which point the visitors were eyeing a fourth-innings target below 250.

But a superb sixth-wicket stand of 91 between Martin van Jaarsveld and James Hockley helped redress the balance before an equally splendid seventh-wicket partnership of 113 between Hockley and James Tredwell put Kent in command.

Van Jaarsveld – whom Yorkshire tried to sign last summer – scored 78 from 121 balls, Hockley a career-best 82 from 152 deliveries and Tredwell an unbeaten 65 from 107 balls.

Their Yorkshire-esque rearguard would have drawn grudging appreciation from the visitors, who failed to turn the screw when they had the chance and who did not help their cause with wayward bowling – particularly from leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who looked every inch a young bowler who has been badly handled by England.

Rashid's first two overs went for 20 as Kent picked him off with elan, and although he recovered spiritedly to have van Jaarsveld lbw and Hockley caught behind, Yorkshire would probably have wrapped up the Kent innings by now if their premier spinner had been on song.

Comfortably the best Yorkshire bowler yesterday was Tim Bresnan, playing his last match for the county before he and Ajmal Shahzad depart for the Twenty20 World Cup.

Bresnan followed his first innings five-wicket haul with 2-24 from 16 overs, a commendable effort in the context of the scorecard.

Looking lean and mean following his exploits at international level, Bresnan made the first breakthrough in the Kent second innings when he had Joe Denly well caught low down by wicketkeeper Jonathan Bairstow.

Kent slipped to 39-2 when Key was lbw trying to whip Oliver Hannon-Dalby through mid-wicket, but Geraint Jones looked in fine fettle as he raced to a half-century from 69 balls to quell Yorkshire's early fire.

But Jones's departure sparked the mini Kent collapse shortly after lunch – left-arm spinner David Wainwright trapping the former England wicketkeeper lbw as he tried to sweep – and Bresnan made it 99-4 when he had Sam Northeast lbw.

The home team looked in trouble when Darren Stevens clobbered to mid-wicket off Wainwright, who also struggled for rhythm, before the lower middle-order saved their bacon.

The day ended with Yorkshire seemingly trying to bowl Rashid into form and with Kent contemplating a likely declaration.

Only 12 times in their 147-year history have Yorkshire scored 300 or more to win a first-class match, and the chances of Gale's men making it 13 must be rated slim.

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Tim Bresnan

n The England star was Yorkshire's outstanding bowler on a day when Kent gained the upper hand.