FACING the four mainstays of the Yorkshire pace bowling attack – Ryan Sidebottom, Jack Brooks, Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson – is the cricketing equivalent of Chinese water torture.
Eventually, the drip-drip-drip of pressure is liable to drive the poor old batsman insane, forcing him into a fatal state and exposing the next man to the fiendish process.
Some batsmen are harder to crack than others, of course, and Durham showed commendable resistance in answering Yorkshire’s first innings 460 to reach stumps on day two at 205-4.
However, they remain shackled and susceptible for the time being, needing another 106 to avoid the possibility of being asked to follow-on against a side who, much like Chinese water torture itself, have a track record for wearing down their victims in the end.
For that to happen, though, there is work to do, with Yorkshire not as clinical with the ball and in the field yesterday as they might have been, and with Durham battling for their Division One survival.
After Yorkshire were dismissed on the stroke of lunch, having started the day on 341-5, they allowed Durham to dash to 52-0 off the first 10 overs as boundaries sped across the sunlit outfield.
However, after the visitors advanced to 113-1, Yorkshire reverted to “drip-drip-drip” mode again as they pegged them back to 165-4 before a mini-revival in the closing stages. Add another two wickets to the score, as the old saying goes, and Durham are by no means out of danger yet, with Yorkshire holding the upper hand at the halfway stage.
Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first team coach, pronounced himself “a very happy coach” at stumps.
“First of all, we were pleased to score the runs we scored, and the tail wagged at the start of the day,” he said.
“The bowling effort, by and large, was good, although the first hour could have been a lot better, and the lads acknowledge that.
“We need to adapt quicker, and we can’t afford to let teams get off to a flier like that, as it’s not good enough. If we’re going to bowl sides out, we need to be ruthless, and we weren’t ruthless enough in those first 10 overs before pegging things back really nicely.”
The second new ball is due after 10 overs this morning, and Yorkshire remain well-placed to push for a win.
However, it remains to be seen whether they would enforce the follow-on should that possibility arise.
“It would all depend,” said Gillespie. “For me, it’s very simple. If you’ve spent more than 70-80 overs in the field, it’s pretty unlikely that you’d enforce the follow-on unless time is running out, but we’ll just have to wait and see where we’re at.
“Clearly, we can’t look too far ahead. Durham might get 450/460, or whatever, and they’ve already shown a lot of fight.”
On another warm day at Headingley, Yorkshire came within eight runs of achieving maximum batting points.
They lost Bresnan in the fifth over, bowled by Chris Rushworth, but Azeem Rafiq and Andy Hodd batted in positive fashion to frustrate the visitors.
Hodd hit five fours in his 31 before skewing Barry McCarthy into the cover area, while Rafiq plundered six boundaries in his 45 before being stumped as he tried to hit a straight six off Scott Borthwick.
Patterson was bowled looking to leave one from McCarthy, but Brooks continued his excellent batting form as he plundered 36 from 33, including five fours and a six over long-on off Borthwick.
Sidebottom, the No 11, produced a contender for shot of the summer when he nonchalantly reverse-swept Borthwick to the boundary, the Yorkshire innings ending when Brooks was bowled trying to hit Paul Collingwood into the leg-side.
By his own admission, Brooks is one of those bowlers who blows hot one minute and cold the next, and he initially blew cold as 20 came from his first two overs.
When he returned to bowl the 11th over, however, Yorkshire’s leading wicket-taker made the breakthrough when Mark Stoneman flashed behind, Adam Lyth grabbing a sharp chance as he moved to his right at second slip. Lyth is one of the best slip fielders in the world, never mind in this country, and he no doubt had a consoling word for Jake Lehmann when he dropped two opportunities at third slip.
Lehmann spilled Keaton Jennings on nought off Sidebottom, the left-hander advancing to 40 before being caught behind off Patterson, while Jack Burnham, who ended the day on 34, was spilled on seven off Brooks.
Borthwick, whom Bresnan had on toast in the early stages of his innings, somehow eked out a half-century before the safe hands of Lyth claimed him off Patterson, and Bresnan bowled Collingwood to finish with a deserved wicket for his labours.