September 23, 2013

Fruitless but wonderful season for Yorkshire

Luckily promoted from the ruins of rain-hit 2012, and a tip for relegation, Andrew Gales's side made a sizeable contribution to England's Ashes success and came within touching distance of the title

Note and compare: two almost identical match situations. What happened next illustrates why Durham are 2013 County Champions, and Yorkshire are not. We join each match at the start of day four.

At Scarborough, Yorkshire trail by 23 runs with only one second innings wicket down. To have a realistic chance of winning, Durham need to take nine Yorkshire wickets in no more than 70 overs. The pitch is good, with even bounce and little wear, but there is some cloud cover on.

At Hove, a fortnight later, Sussex are 14 runs ahead with two second-innings wickets down. Yorkshire need to take eight wickets inside about 60 overs. The pitch has been difficult for batsmen all game, and it is very cloudy, as it has been throughout.

The two counties' approaches could not have been more different. At Scarborough, Durham took two early wickets and, with a mixture of pace and spin, they bowled Yorkshire out for just 143 more runs. This despite the absence of Graham Onions from the whole match, and of fast bowler Mark Wood from the second innings. The run chase was a formality.

At Hove, Yorkshire came to the conclusion that the best way of winning was not through their strong seam attack (did anyone consult the bowlers?), but via declaration bowling and a run chase of 300 at five-an-over. This against a Sussex side that had been humbled at Chester-le-Street and beaten recently by Derbyshire at Hove.

On the one hand we had Durham, full of confidence, with senior players accustomed to success. On the other, a Yorkshire team who had done so well this season, come so close, but now they faltered on the home straight, perhaps plagued by past failures, unable to believe - deep inside - that they were good enough to win.

I am very much against agreed declarations and joke bowling. The traditional two or three overs of dross to wring a declaration out of a cautious batting captain - familiar to club cricketers of an earlier generation - is a far cry from 20 overs of the stuff to produce 300 runs. I had a shout, about having paid to watch first-class cricket, and then I walked out. I rarely shout at cricket matches. Or anywhere else.

In the end it didn't matter. The foul south coast weather had the final say. At the same time, in Derby, Durham were doing it again from an even more unpromising position, going into the final day. Oh, that fellow Onions! A week later it was all over, the race run.

There will be those, I know there are those, who will say, in the manner of Anne Robinson, "Yorkshire, you leave with nothing. You have put all your eggs in the County Championship basket and by failing to win that, you have had an unsuccessful season. The trophy cabinet is empty."

This is to ignore the splendid entertainment our lads have provided to those lucky enough to be able to follow them around the country. The performances at Lord's, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge were worthy of great teams of the past.

This is a side that was promoted rather luckily from the ruins of rain-hit 2012, and was many people's tip to return quickly to Division Two. And yet, as well as making a sizeable contribution to England's Ashes success, Andrew Gale's men have come within touching distance of the title.

This has been achieved with a largely home-grown team, though Andy Hodd has deputised for Jonathan Bairstow - much better with the gloves! - and Jack Brooks has made a promising start. The only others not to play in Yorkshire during their teenage years were Phil Jaques, the experienced Australian who finished the season so strongly, and Kane Williamson, a lovely stylist from New Zealand, who was recruited when England selected a fourth Yorkshire player towards the end of the season.

It was my fear at the start of the year that Yorkshire's batting would lack the depth to overcome the expected England calls, that someone needed to step up and be counted. They included Adil Rashid, who blazed his way through the early part of the season with a series of outrageously brilliant innings; the captain himself, who had a golden patch of three successive tons, including a wonderful double; and the youthful Alex Lees.

As far as I am concerned this has been a wonderful season for Yorkshire, one to remember and relish in the dark days ahead. I look forward to more of the same, next season. Apart from the joke bowling, that is.

Dave Morton, now retired, grew up worshipping the great Yorkshire team of the 1950s

Comments