LOWER order batting, with Barnsley’s Azeem Rafiq leading the way, helped Yorkshire recover on the first day against Essex at Chelmsford as they bid for promotion in the final match and a return to Division One of the County Championship.
Yorkshire were wobbling at 166-6 when Rafiq and wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd - who has signed a contract after joining on loan from Sussex - came together. They put on 58 for the seventh wicket before Hodd was out for 22. Then Ryan Sidebottom joined Rafiq and the pair pushed Yorkshire towards a third bonus point - and every single bonus point could be vital.
When Sidebottom was out in the final over of the day for 37, the pair had added 60 for the eighth wicket and boosted Yorkshire’s fortunes.
Rafiq resumes today on 49 not out with Yorkshire on 284-8, just 16 runs away from a third bonus point.
They had suffered an instant blow when Joe Root was out to the third ball he faced, leg before to Graham Napier for a duck. But fellow opener Adam Lyth, who has actually had a better season than Root with a higher average, didn’t let the early blow faze him.
He rattled up 67 in just 69 balls with 11 fours, sharing a second wicket stand of 82 with Phil Jaques, 38. However, only Gary Ballance, with 30, registered anything else until Rafiq and the lower order came to Yorkshire’s rescue.
Meanwhile, leaders Derbyshire finished the day on 50-3 after dismissing Hampshire for 272 at Derby.