Yorkshire v Surrey: Yorkshire's thoughts turn to avoiding drop after Scarborough setback
SO ended an eventful match in which champions-elect Surrey stretched their lead at the top of the table with a seven-wicket win, thereby effectively ending the challenge of Yorkshire, whose priority now is to avoid relegation.
It was an interesting match, a match of good performances and also imperfections on both sides before Surrey’s superior strength shone through in the end.
It was also a match with unpleasant undertones with a secondary narrative of poor behaviour on-and-off the field.
Ryan Patel, the Surrey all-rounder, reported that he had been racially abused by a spectator on the opening day, while Level One offences by Surrey’s Mark Stoneman and Jade Dernbach on day two – relating to general dissent and disagreeable conduct – resulted in Yorkshire being awarded five penalty runs, lifting their first innings score from 337 to 342.
In a particularly tight finish that might have come back to bite the visitors, but after they started day four on 89-0 in pursuit of 228, their fifth victory in seven Championship games – and Yorkshire’s third defeat in seven as they slipped to second bottom and into the relegation zone – was as inevitable as high and low tide on the nearby North Sea.
Perhaps fittingly, Patel was there at the end to help cap a collective display that was very much the hallmark of potential champions, Surrey turning a 75-run first innings deficit into a relatively comfortable victory at the finish.
It was the type of facility that Yorkshire themselves showed en route to back-to-back titles in 2014-2015, the type of form that now seems as distant to them as the ships on Scarborough’s horizon.
The only silver lining on Yorkshire’s horizon, perhaps, is that their fate is firmly in their own hands as five of their last seven games are against their relegation rivals.
They face third-bottom Lancashire home and away (with their Roses counterparts three points above them and the safety line), bottom club Worcestershire home and away, and fourth-bottom Hampshire at home, their other two fixtures being against Somerset at Headingley and Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
But unless they can cure a perennial tendency to collapse with the bat, which again cost them here as they were dismissed for 152 in their second innings, they cannot take their First Division status for granted.
Andrew Gale, Yorkshire’s first-team coach, said: “For two-and-a-half days we’ve outplayed the top of the league, but then they fought their way back into the game.
“If you want to win trophies and compete with the top teams you have to be ruthless, and we weren’t ruthless enough.
“We had a bad couple of hours with the bat that cost us in our second innings, and whether it’s complacency, down to pressure, I can’t put my finger on it; individuals have got to start to put their hands up.
“We’re only at the halfway point (of the campaign) and we’ve been inconsistent, but I don’t feel we’re a million miles away.”
Yorkshire’s spectators are not the only ones who enjoy coming to Scarborough; the players do too, and their results had been impressive there until relatively recently.
But this was Yorkshire’s third successive Championship defeat at North Marine Road, and their fourth in five games at the ground, which had ended a sequence of four straight triumphs.
There was never likely to be too much doubt about this result once the fourth day started in glorious sunshine, with Surrey securing their first Championship win at Scarborough since 1969, and their first in Yorkshire since 2002.
The sea fret that had dominated day two and given proceedings a ghostly feel had long been consigned to the memory of Scarborough curiosities, and Surrey could not have picked a better day for batting as they set about knocking off the last 139 needed for victory.
If Yorkshire were to pull off something remarkable early wickets were essential, but they managed only one in the first 75 minutes before a crowd of 1,182.
In the day’s fourth over Ben Coad brought back a delivery to Mark Stoneman from the Trafalgar Square end that trapped the left-hander lbw for 32 – incredibly his highest score of a wretched season.
Fellow opener Rory Burns has had a somewhat more successful campaign; he is the leading run-scorer in Division One.
But the Surrey captain fell three short of what would have been his third Championship hundred of the summer, uppercutting a short, wide delivery from Tim Bresnan to Alex Lees on the point boundary in front of the wooden seats on the popular bank, which not so much erupted in celebration as slowly broke out into surprised applause.
Scott Borthwick and Patel added 74 before Borthwick was bowled for 62 by Jack Leaning with eight runs wanted.
England all-rounder Ben Stokes will make his return from an injured hamstring in Yorkshire’s opening Vitality T20 Blast match against Durham at Emerald Headingley on Thursday.
Stokes, who tore his left hamstring in the build-up to the Test match against Pakistan at Headingley, will play for Durham as a batsman only.
If he comes through without problems he will be available for the third T20 international against India at Bristol on Sunday week.