Gleam in Gale's eye tells of inevitable title
Yorkshire 391 (Ballance 91, Bairstow 91) beat Somerset 110 (Brooks 5-35) and 155 by an innings and 126 runs
Andrew Gale could have written the script. Next week, a little under a year after a last-minute ruling from the England and Wales Cricket board denied him his dream of lifting the Championship trophy as Yorkshire captain, he will realise his ambition on their own front lawn, so to speak, at Lord's.
That this will happen is a formality after Yorkshire's third win by an innings in the space of seven matches left them within a handful of points of winning the title for the second year running. Now they take on Middlesex, currently in second place, knowing that when they turn up at headquarters next Wednesday, a draw would put Middlesex out of the running and give Yorkshire enough points to ensure that Nottinghamshire could not catch up even if they won all their remaining matches with maximum points.
As Yorkshire celebrated this crushing win, Gale revealed that the title had not been mentioned in the dressing room, even though it is so close, but he was not denying the gleam in his own eye. Told that, because he was suspended after his verbal attack on Lancashire's Ashwell Prince, he would have to stand aside as Yorkshire received their trophy last season, what should have been the sweetest moment of his career was soured. He knew he might never have the chance again but now 12 months later he has.
"Since we came back for pre-season, the motivation for me to lift that trophy again after what happened last season has been a big driver," he said. "To win back to back Championship trophies will be special but, for me, to actually lift the trophy myself will be even more special.
"It would have been nice to do it here in front of our own fans but to do so at Lord's, the home of cricket, will be a fantastic experience. I'm sure people will travel down to be there too.
"And I don't know if you noticed but I've been keeping my mouth firmly shut during this game, leaving the others to do the talking. And I'll be keeping it shut again next week, just concentrating on the job in hand."
Amid intense competition for places at Headingley, Gale's sometimes patchy batting form has again put him under pressure to justify his place but he has inspirational qualities as an individual to which his players respond time and again.
On this occasion, his bowlers delivered twice, skittling Somerset for 110 in the first innings and making short work of them second time around. Resuming at 44 for 2 on the third morning, the relegation-threatened west countrymen managed to survive 35 minutes without losing a wicket but once the first incision was make by Steve Patterson they were ripped apart with ruthless zeal.
Tom Cooper, driving expansively, was first to go, caught behind, followed by Jim Allenby, taken at third slip. Once James Hildreth, having reached 57 following his reprieve on 18 on Wednesday evening, had been seen off by Jack Brooks, it became only a matter of how quickly Yorkshire could finish the job.
In the event, it was before lunch, more or less, the interval having been delayed for all of two minutes after the ninth wicket fell before Tim Groenewald squirted a catch to Gary Ballance at point off Tim Bresnan and the celebrations began. From the first wicket of the morning to the last there were 19 overs precisely, the last eight Somerset wickets falling for 68 runs.
Patterson and Ryan Sidebottom in particular were impressive, the latter moving to within one wicket of 700 for his career in first-class matches, although Somerset's resistance was feeble, their performance collectively that of a side who could not wait to be on the coach home.
Their captain, Marcus Trescothick, admitted the next two matches are more important.
"This was a comprehensive defeat and we were completely outplayed," he said. "Yorkshire executed their skills far greater than we did in every aspect of the game. It is why they will almost certainly be champions for the second year.
"Our next game is a crucial relegation clash with Hampshire and it is a massive game in the context of the season. We need to improve our skills and put in a much better performance to get the result we want.
"We follow that with a visit to Hove so we have eight days of challenging cricket in nine days. We have got a mental battle ahead of us over the last few weeks of the season."