Yorkshire 209 and 127 for 3 (Ballance 53*) lead Lancashire 252 (Davies 87, Brooks 5-66) trail by 104 runs
Optimism should carry a health warning in this Roses match. The importance of the game has eclipsed the fond regrets of September and lured supporters of each side into an evanescent belief that their county might, indeed, prevail.
The perils of such confidence were made plain as Lancashire lost seven wickets for 93 runs in the first 40 overs of this day's play before eventually gaining a first-innings advantage of 43. Then as if to mock their own supporters' pleasure at what was a notable revival, Yorkshire surrendered three prime batsmen before the deficit had been cleared. But the final session brought some balm to the anxieties of home supporters as Gary Ballance and Tom Kohler-Cadmore put on an unbroken 100 runs with the calmest and most assured batting of the match.
Yet a statistical skeleton cannot reflect the full fluctuations of this second day nor can it properly convey what is at stake in the game. Should Lancashire lose, they will need to win their last game at Hampshire and hope other results have not sealed their fate by then. Should Yorkshire lose, they will need to win one of their last two games, at home to Hampshire or away to Worcestershire; quite probably they will need to win both. "I'm surprised to see you here, again," said a member in Headingley's Long Room before play began. "Well, you've turned up, as well," came the fair reply
The stoicism was unremarkable; the Long Room was crowded. And at least those who turned up on this bright morning had some reward for their loyalty, albeit one with a bitter edge. For five of the six wickets that fell in the first 30 overs of the day were taken by Jack Brooks, whose obvious value to Yorkshire's attack made it all the more painful that he will be leaving the county in a few weeks' time. Brooks, who was 34 in June, will be joining Somerset after accepting a three-year contract, twelve months more than was on offer at Headingley.
Yorkshire's morning had begun perfectly when Karl Brown was caught down the leg side by Jonny Tattersall off Ben Coad's first ball of the day, but hopes that Lancashire's lead would be kept below three figures were wreathed in caution before Brooks came on at the Kirkstall Lane End. His first wicket, though, was a filthy affair. Receiving a ball well wide off the off stump Steven Croft aimed an ugly slash and was well taken at second slip by Adam Lyth who clutched the ball to his stomach.
As though encouraged by a piece of cricket from which only Lyth emerged with much credit, Brooks settled into his work. Liam Livingstone lost his off stump when playing crookedly at one which came back off the seam and that was the prelude to the trio of lbws which removed Dane Vilas, Alex Davies and Josh Bohannon. Each delivery tracked back and struck the pad in line with middle stump; each batsman failed to cover the movement and was sent on his way by David Millns.
The morning, then, belonged to Yorkshire but also, to a degree, to Davies, a cricketer who seems inspired by adversity. Lancashire's opener only scored 29 runs off 58 balls in the session but every shot, whether attacking or defensive, was a declaration of defiance. Just before lunch he was joined by Bohannon, a player who is cut from similar cloth but Brooks took care of them both in the space of five overs after the resumption and Lancashire were then 175 for 6.
Suddenly visiting supporters, who are attending this game in good numbers, realised that they may not have the comfort of any first-innings lead at all, but those worries were allayed largely by Keshav Maharaj, who launched sixes into the Kirkstall Lane and White Rose stands before whacking a third over the boundary in front of the Long Room. Maharaj's 38 off 26 balls gave Lancashire a far smaller advantage than they might have envisaged at the start of the day, but it seemed substantial enough when Jeet Raval, Adam Lyth and Harry Brook were removed by Tom Bailey and Graham Onions inside the first 13 overs of Yorkshire's innings.
Now there was more anxiety in the Long Room; now there were yet more fears of another collapse at just the wrong time in the season. The gradient of the game had shifted again and now it seemed Lancashire might be chasing a paltry total. But Kohler-Cadmore, who is in special form, joined Ballance and the pair defended capably against Onions and Bailey before taking a succession of boundaries off Lancashire's support bowlers.
Ballance reached his fifty off 107 balls just before the close and they day ended with Yorkshire in the ascendant. But no one is taking bets it will last. Some prayers will be answered and others seemingly ignored before this match is done with us.