Somerset v Yorkshire - Defending champions show their defiant streak to maintain unbeaten start
COUNTY Championships are not just won with the type of positive, attacking cricket that has helped Yorkshire claim back-to-back titles.
They are also won with the sort of backs-to-the-wall defiance that the champions displayed at Taunton yesterday.
If the mark of a good side is the ability to pick up points when not playing to their optimum, then Yorkshire emphasised their credentials in the south-west.
In truth, they have not played to their optimum all season, yet they remain well-placed to push for a hat-trick of titles, sitting second in the table after one win and four draws from their opening five games.
This latest stalemate, achieved on a typically flat Taunton pitch, was more hard-fought than it should have been from Yorkshire’s perspective.
After exercising their right to bowl, the visitors would not have expected to concede, in the first instance, a total of 562-7 declared, even accounting for a surface that was predictably placid.
A collapse of 5-11 in 30 balls on the third evening saw Yorkshire slip from 226-4 to 237-9, and when they were finally dismissed for 311 to the 13th ball of day four, after play began an hour late due to rain, they were forced to follow-on, 251 behind.
But a combination of gritty batting, the featherbed pitch, and the fact that Somerset were not quite good enough to take their chance resulted in Yorkshire reaching 141-6 from 71.4 overs by the time that hands were shaken with 14 balls left.
Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first team coach, admitted that his side were second best throughout.
“Somerset out-batted us and they out-bowled us,” he said.
“I don’t think we were disciplined or patient enough with the ball, although, with the bat, there weren’t poor dismissals as such, but some pretty good bowling.
“Overall, I was proud of the lads and the way they stuck at it; their efforts were top-drawer.
“We’ve now got a week off before our next game and the chance to work on a few things.”
The forecast was dire going into day four, and Taunton was duly battered by torrential rain for 45 minutes from around 9.30am.
Under the circumstances, it was remarkable that play was able to start at noon following the loss of just 16 overs, but much of the day was then blessed with watery sunshine.
The last-wicket stand of Steve Patterson and Jack Brooks stood at 69 overnight, and the pair set a new Yorkshire record for that wicket against Somerset when Brooks square-drove Tim Groenewald to the boundary to eclipse the previous best of 71 by Hubert Myers and Haworth Watson at Bath in 1909.
Patterson had not added to his overnight score when he had all three of his stumps disturbed by a ball from Jamie Overton as he tried to play through mid-on, with Overton impressing throughout the match in an eye-catching display.
When Yorkshire batted again, extreme care and caution was the order of the day, and openers Adam Lyth and Alex Lees added just 15 in 13 overs before lunch.
Lyth cut Overton to the boundary in a rare aggressive shot to the third delivery after the break, but he perished to the fourth when Overton bowled him with a good inswinger. Will Rhodes somehow avoided being bowled for a duck when he shouldered arms to Overton, but the left-hander got off the mark with a sweet clip to the mid-wicket boundary off spinner Jack Leach.
But when Leach had Rhodes caught at short-leg, closely followed by the dismissal of Lees, who shouldered arms to Overton and lost his off bail, Yorkshire found themselves at 49-3.
No one epitomised Yorkshire’s efforts to save the game more than Lees, who faced 97 balls for his 11 runs and occupied the crease for two hours and nine minutes.
At tea, the total stood at 61-3 off 42 overs, which became 69-4 when Andrew Gale pushed Groenewald to Leach at short mid-on.
Gary Ballance scored 18 in 75 minutes before clipping Overton to Leach in front of square, and Adil Rashid was caught at first slip off Groenewald for a 30-ball duck to complete a pair, but Jack Leaning and Liam Plunkett saw out the game.
Somerset will point to the fact that they might have won had 55 overs not been lost to the weather overall.
As for Yorkshire, there is food for thought and room for improvement ahead of their next game, a T20 Blast match against Leicestershire at Headingley tomorrow week, for which all-rounder Tim Bresnan is expected to return from a calf injury.