WHEN Yorkshire and their supporters pitched up at Headingley yesterday, it is safe to say that they would not have envisaged the day panning out quite as it did.
The Hampshire score stood at 141-5 in reply to Yorkshire’s 593-9 declared, and the only question seemed to be whether Yorkshire would wrap up victory later that day, or be taken into a final day.
Part of cricket’s appeal, however, lies in its capacity to surprise and to throw up all manner of twists and turns.
At stumps, the Hampshire score stood at 450-8, and it was by no means certain that Yorkshire would win the game at all.
Should Hampshire escape with a share of the spoils, it would indeed represent a remarkable turnaround.
To say that Yorkshire bossed the first half of the match is an understatement; Jonny Bairstow and Liam Plunkett, in particular, destroyed the visitors’ bowling with something approaching embarrassing ease.
But one thing that was not destroyed, apparently, was the Hampshire spirit, which was severely lacking earlier in the contest but which suddenly appeared with a vengeance.
Inspired by a rocket from Dale Benkenstein, their coach, Hampshire made the most of good batting conditions and an increasingly benign pitch, frustrating a Yorkshire attack that huffed and puffed but could not quite manage to blow the house down.
James Vince, 76 overnight, went to a fine hundred in front of national selector James Whitaker, who would have admired the character of the innings as much as the class.
A century against Yorkshire is the equivalent, perhaps, of a double century against some counties, and Vince was not alone in experiencing the euphoria.
Sean Ervine, who suffered a suspected broken left index finger when he was struck by a vicious delivery from Plunkett, and who will have an X-ray when he returns to Southampton, battled on to make a valiant 123.
Having added 75 with Vince in 26 overs, Ervine shared in a stand of 143 for the seventh wicket with Adam Wheater, who made 62.
It took Ryan Sidebottom to finally remove Ervine, whose dismissal in the final session to a catch by wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow gave Sidebottom his 1,000th wicket in professional cricket.
For the record, the breakdown of those wickets is 709 first-class, 198 List A and 93 T20, another proud milestone for the evergreen pace bowler.
Sidebottom celebrated the landmark in the understated manner of someone whose side had spent a long and difficult day in the dirt, letting out more of a cry of relief than one of satisfaction. At 38, he remains a tireless performer, his figures here 3-78 from 25 overs.
All in all, though, it was a challenging day for Yorkshire, but one in which first-team coach Jason Gillespie was proud of his team.
“I was really pleased with our efforts with the ball and in the field,” said Gillespie.
“The lads put in a real shift, and I’m very proud of the way they went about their work.
“I didn’t think we were brilliant with the ball, but I thought it was a really good, solid performance, and it was just unfortunate that things didn’t quite go our way.
“Fair crack to Hampshire; you have to give them a lot of credit for the way they applied themselves, and there were some good knocks from a number of their batters.”
Vince set the tone for Hampshire’s day when he drove the first ball of the morning to the cover boundary off Jack Brooks.
A sumptuous on-drive followed off the same bowler, and there were no demons in the surface for Yorkshire to exploit.
Vince, compact and commanding, brought up his century from 173 balls with 15 boundaries, and it took a good one from Steve Patterson to send him on his way.
Patterson, bowling from the Kirkstall Lane end, shaped one back in and Vince offered no shot to a ball that struck him just outside off stump and looked as though it might have gone on to clip it.
Ervine and Wheater saw Hampshire through to lunch, Ervine reaching his fifty moments after the break from 97 balls.
Wheater got to the same mark from 123 deliveries as Yorkshire went wicketless in the middle session.
Patterson induced Wheater to chip to mid-wicket in the fourth over after tea, but, following Ervine’s departure, Ryan McLaren and Chris Wood added an unbeaten 59, McLaren reaching 55 from 83 balls.
The visitors saved the follow-on in the penultimate over, making the draw the likeliest result.
Mazars, an international accountancy firm, have agreed a one-year extension as Yorkshire’s principal partner.
There is also the option of an additional year that would take the arrangement into 2018.