Evergreen Sidebottom carries Yorkshire closer to title
Yorkshire 213 (Bairstow 108, Wright 5-40) and 289 for 7 dec (Rhodes 79, Finch 73*) beat Warwickshire 69 (Sidebottom 6-34) and 259 (Hain 106, Sidebottom 5-42) by 174 runs
Is anyone capable of catching Yorkshire now? A patient but ultimately irresistible fourth-day performance secured the reigning County Champions their sixth victory of an increasingly formidable campaign. With 20 more points in the bag, and their nearest challengers Middlesex forced to settle for a draw at Trent Bridge, they take on Worcestershire at Scarborough next week knowing that the title is theirs to lose.
Ryan Sidebottom, inevitably, was the catalyst, just as he had been in Warwickshire's first innings. Having extracted Varun Chopra with his fourth ball last night, he claimed each of the next three wickets to fall to complete the fourth ten-wicket haul of his tireless career, then returned after tea to bowl Oliver Hannon-Dalby to complete match figures of 11 for 76, the second-best of his 18-year career.
"Ryan bowled a ruthless line and length," said Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire's coach. "He put a shoebox on a length and was hitting it all the time and attacking that off stump. He was the challenging the batsmen with every ball he bowled. It was an exceptional performance. His days of playing for his country are over, but to have that desire is full credit to him and shows how much he loves the game of cricket. It's fantastic for us to have a resource like Ryan Sidebottom."
For Warwickshire, the only notable source of resistance came from the 19-year-old Sam Hain, whose technique and mannerisms are eerily reminiscent of Jonathan Trott and whose ability to bat within a bubble was equally laudable in his team's trying circumstances. With only the No. 11, Boyd Rankin for company, he brought up a richly deserved century from 190 balls with 16 fours and a six, before being pinned lbw by Tim Bresnan to cue Yorkshire's gleeful celebrations.
"It was nice on a personal level," Hain said of his hundred. "But as a team, you just have to hand it to Yorkshire over the past four days. They were just better than us and we have to stand back and say well played."
With more dank weather in the offing, Warwickshire had resumed in the morning on 43 for 1 and if, as seems highly unlikely, there had ever been an intention of hunting down their target of 434, it was emphatically scotched in the seventh over of the day. Trott, so adept at picking runs off his legs, was for once bowled around them as Sidebottom curled one into his stumps and then, two balls later, unfurled that trademark inswinger to pin Laurie Evans plumb lbw for a duck.
From 58 for 3, Warwickshire rallied through a fourth-wicket stand of 51, but it was never comfortable viewing. Ian Westwood, who might have been run out from short cover inside the first ten minutes of the day, survived two dropped catches in consecutive overs as Aaron Finch at second slip and Jack Leaning at third deprived Steve Patterson and Bresnan respectively of the breakthrough.
Back, though, came Sidebottom, with a full and straight delivery that moved just enough to pin Westwood flush in front of the stumps for 40, and at 109 for 4, Yorkshire had broken the back of Warwickshire's batting.
Peter McKay, who had missed much of the match with a finger injury, came and went at No 6, well caught this time by Finch off Patterson, and though Rikki Clarke resisted for a while, much as he had done in Warwickshire's abject first innings, the introduction of spin lured him into an error. James Middlebrook tossed one up onto his toes, and Leaning under the lid clung onto a firm clip.
Jeetan Patel crashed three fours in an all-too-brief stay before wellying Jack Brooks to short extra cover for 13, and Brooks struck again two overs later to bowl Chris Wright for 6.
Hannon-Dalby resisted long enough to allow Hain to move into striking distance of his hundred but then unwisely elected to shoulder arms to Sidebottom armed with the new ball. Chopra and Westwood had shown the folly of such an approach in the first innings and Hannon-Dalby duly departed with his middle stump flattened for 8.
The margin of Yorkshire's victory - 174 runs - was especially impressive given their struggles with the bat on the first day. And Gillespie, never one to count his chickens, was mindful of the room for improvement even after their fourth Championship win in a row.
"With the bat, Jonny B aside, we could have done better," he said. "But after day one, I think the way we went about our work was exceptional. I'm very happy.
"We have plenty of games to go, and there are some very good teams in this competition. We just need to focus on our process and continue to play the consistent cricket.
"You look down Warwickshire's line-up, and they've got all bases covered. To come away with a win is incredibly satisfying."
Andrew Miller is a former editor of the Cricketer. @miller_cricket