Third day: Yorkshire need another 46 runs to defeat Worcestershire with four second-innings wickets remaining
Worcestershire?s whole season appears to be hanging in the balance this morning as they return to New Road bid-ding to finish off Yorkshire.
A fifth County Champion-ship Division Two win in nine matches would help wipe away the misery of the awful defeat to Leicestershire at Grace Road with which signed off for a three-week break from four-day cricket. In fact, victory would take them to within two points of leaders Durham and confidence would soar.
But, if victory was to go Yorkshire?s way today, the fixture list ahead hints at an uphill battle for the rest of the season for the Pears.
Maybe the key to this contest came not yesterday, but on Saturday evening, when Graeme Hick was brilliantly caught at square leg by youngster Joe Sayers.
Had Hick resumed batting yesterday morning and got any sort of start, he might have helped build an unassailable lead for the home side.
As it was, with Worcester-shire having to protect a slender first-innings advantage of only 45, wickets fell far too regularly as Yorkshire?s bowl-ers exploited the increasingly variable bounce.
Tim Bresnan was the chief beneficiary as he took his first five-wicket haul.
Having picked up the key wicket of Hick the previous evening, Bresnan claimed two more good victims yesterday morning when he had Stephen Moore caught behind and Ben Smith caught at slip.
Nightwatchman Jamie Pipe led a rally against his native county, hitting 32 before being caught in customary fashion, flailing a wild stroke to deep square leg.
When Daryl Mitchell went for a golden duck in the next over, caught at slip by Phil Jaques, Worcestershire were in bother at 111 for six. But they were to counter the occasionally valid criticism that their tail does not have the backbone of old as the last four wickets doubled the score to 222.
Skipper Gareth Batty, who has taken well to all the responsibilities of being captain in the absence of England?s Vikram Solanki, helped Zander De Bruyn add 55 for the seventh wicket.
But, in the next over, De Bruyn was out for 41 and the end looked nigh.
The visitors reckoned without the efforts of Matt Mason, who came in to bludgeon four fours in his 24 as he helped Kabir Ali put on 54 for the ninth wicket.
No sooner had Bresnan bowled Mason than Nadeem Malik met with the same fate, losing his off-stump to end the innings.
That left the home side needing early wickets and they got one when Kabir struck in his fourth over to have Matthew Wood caught at second slip.
Mason found Joe Sayers? edge but, when tea was taken at 4.55pm, Yorkshire were back in charge on 100 for two.
Kabir came back after tea to find the extra lift that got Anthony McGrath to glove an excellent catch to Pipe. Richard Pyrah was lbe to the next ball, only for home hopes to start evaporating on this hottest, muggiest, sweatiest of days when Jaques and Craig White put on 80 for the fifth wicket.
But Batty had an ace up his sleeve, snaring Jaques seven overs from the end of the day when he came on and bowled the Australian sweeping.
Kabir struck again when he had White caught behind and with 70 still needed by Yorkshire, those two quick wickets made it a different story. But the confident manner in which Richard Dawson hit three boundaries to help reduce the target by 22 runs suggested that Yorkshire still see themselves as favourites.
In glorious mid-summer sunshine when the players trooped off at 7.20pm, it might have made sense to put on an hour?s overtime and end the match last night. But cricket doesn?t work like that.
Even with so many visiting Tykes in Worcester this weekend, what could end up a cracking climax will be played out in front of little more than two men and a dog.