Day 3 Report
by John Ward

Ground:Headingley, Leeds
Scorecard:Yorkshire v Northamptonshire

DateLine: 1st June 2012


Yorkshire v Northamptonshire
Day 3, from Headingley
Close of play: Northamptonshire 253 and 43/1; Yorkshire 416.

Yorkshire made good, if uncertain at times, progress on the third day of their match against Northamptonshire and are now in a position where they have a good chance of winning and none of losing unless they completely throw the match away. They could have been in a still better position, but some of their batting as they compiled their first innings was rather slow, and arguably their failure to declare cost them valuable time when they might have made major inroads into the visitors' batting in their second innings.


More drizzle in the early morning again delayed the start of play, but fortunately this time only by an hour. Joe Root faced the bowling of Lee Daggett, on his overnight 98, and off the third ball he successfully reached his century by gliding a ball between slips and gully to the boundary, for which he received a great ovation from the crowd. It had taken him 137 balls, a deceptively brisk rate as he rarely appeared to be so dominating the bowling; his innings was notable more for quiet fluency and steadiness.


The partnership eventually realized 147 runs, although it almost came to an end earlier, when Bairstow, on 45, narrowly escaped being run out as the batsmen went for a rather risky single to point, but the throw missed the stumps before he got home. Root was finally the man to go, caught at the wicket off a lifting ball from Andrew Hall that surprised him, the keeper standing up to the stumps. He made 125 off 161 balls, with 14 fours. The score was 243 for four; Gary Ballance came in, but only a single was added before lunch was taken.


Yorkshire battled for runs after lunch. Ballance began his innings very slowly, while Bairstow never found real fluency on this day. He became bogged down and, perhaps from frustration, tried to hit a full-length ball from Hall across the line and was bowled for 68; 268 for five. With Anthony McGrath also making a dour start to his innings, the scoring rate dropped still further. Northamptonshire were now handicapped, however, by the loss of Hall, the bowler who took both wickets to fall so far during the day, as he broke down with an injury.


The Yorkshire innings seemed to be losing its way when James Middlebrook removed Ballance for a rather painful 24 off 64 balls, popping a simple bat-pad catch to short leg. Azeem Rafiq, however, started to brighten the innings with some aggressive strokes, taking the attack back to the bowlers, and slowly McGrath began to respond as well. Instead of fading away into oblivion, the innings enjoyed a revival so that the score reached 361 for six at tea, with Rafiq on 32 closing in on McGrath with 43.


Rafiq did not last long after tea, though, as he slashed loosely at a ball from Lee Daggett outside the off stump and was caught at the wicket for 37, scored off 44 balls. When McGrath soon followed, lbw to David Willey, for 47, the score was 370 for seven, leaving only a rather weak tail with Yorkshire now 117 ahead. They kept batting in the hope of reaching a fourth batting point at 400, and succeeded, thanks to some well-chosen big hits from Mitchell Stark, the first time for two years that Yorkshire have gained full batting points.


Yorkshire decided to bat out their innings, although many thought they should be getting stuck into the opposition as soon as possible with the weather uncertain, and were finally out for 416, a lead of 163. Starc made 28 not out off 31 balls, when Steven Patterson was bowled by Middlebrook for 10. Daggett, with four for 109, was the most successful bowler, but on the whole the bowling was not particularly testing.


Northamptonshire began their second innings with potentially 25 overs left in the day, the light acceptable at the time but nothing more. Stephen Peters and James Middlebrook showed great caution, scoring 7 runs in six overs, but Starc again struck in his first over; Middlebrook hit him for two fours but was then trapped lbw moving in front of a straight one for 9. Northamptonshire were 15 for one.


Starc was quickly taken off again, due to the fading light; in fact, Yorkshire changed their bowlers five times in the first ten overs. Yorkshire's decision to continue batting to the bitter end seemed to be telling against them, as the batsmen scored quite freely against the medium-pace of McGrath and the spin of Rafiq. Eventually the umpires took the players off the field just after 6.20 with ten possible overs still to be bowled. Yorkshire have all to play for on the final day, while all Northamptonshire can hope to do, barring miracles, is fight for a draw.


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