YORKSHIRE captain Andrew Gale has criticised the flat pitch at Arundel that ensured they were denied the victory over Sussex that would have taken them clear at the top of LV= County Championship division one.
The match ended in a draw with the flat wicket ensuring Sussex finished on 228-3, 74 runs ahead, after only 20 wickets fell over the four days for 1,018 runs in 367.5 overs.
The draw has moved Yorkshire up to joint-top of division one with Nottinghamshire at the halfway stage of the championship season, but Gale was not impressed with the wicket they had battled for the last four days.
“When it comes to marking my pitch report for this game, I will mark it as poor,” he said. “If you can’t get nicks that carry even halfway to slip then I think that is a poor first class pitch.
“If you can’t get a result in four days then it is poor, especially when you don’t lose any time out of the game - it was so slow that anything that happened out of the pitch, it happened slow enough to adapt.
“But we came out with ten points, so that is a positive. We are past halfway and sitting where we want to be – it’ s a big run in.”
On such a flat and unforgiving surface as this, captains have to utilise different ways of making a breakthrough and Gale quickly turned to his famous ‘Wall’ field in an attempt to end the opening partnership.
Positioning fielders in a line either side of the wicket to try and turn the drive into a risky shot, Gale introduced it early in the day for Steve Patterson’s spell from the Park End.
It was one of many innovations he attempted, including using eight bowlers – the only players overlooked were Gale, wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow and Alex Lees – but it was not until the turned to Rafiq’s off-spin that the breakthrough arrived.
Making his first championship appearance of the summer because of Adil Rashid’s absence on paternity leave, Azeem Rafiq impressed for most of the day, claimed a key wicket and a sharp catch and cannot have harmed his chances of further selection.
Introduced in the 17th over of the day, Rafiq took three overs before he exploited the foot-holes enough to dismiss Chris Nash, who had played well in scoring 53, but was beaten by the turn and edged to Adam Lyth at slip.
Rafiq may also have claimed a second wicket with Luke Wells, then on 19, also beaten by the turn out of the footholes and edged behind but Bairstow, standing up the stumps, missed the chance.
Bairstow beat the ground in frustration, knowing that Yorkshire needed to take every chance if they were to claim victory and it was another 28 overs before they made another breakthrough.
Once again it was the Lyth-Rafiq combination that ended the 110-run second wicket stand with the Barnsley-born off-spinner taking a smart catch at leg gully after Rory Hamilton-Brown got an inside edge defending Lyth’s part-time spin.
Lyth claimed a second wicket before the close, ending Luke Well’s tortuous innings of 81 in 82 overs at the crease, but by then enough time had been taken out of the game for both sides to accept the inevitable draw.