Rampant Yorkshire retain Championship title
Yorkshire 238 for 9 (Gale 98) lead Middlesex 106 (Sidebottom 5-18, Bresnan 4-30) by 132 runs
Yorkshire became County Champions on a dramatic day at Lord's, with second-placed Middlesex routed for 106 and Ryan Sidebottom grabbing a triple-wicket maiden in perhaps the most remarkable opening over of a match even the world's most famous ground has witnessed.
It was the 32nd outright Championship title in Yorkshire's proud history, and the Division One game's first day also included a cathartic 98 from 110 balls by captain Andrew Gale as his team reached 238 for 9 in reply. Prevented by suspension from receiving the Championship trophy last year, Gale will now get his chance to hold the trophy aloft when the official presentation is made at the end of this game.
Gale and Lees had shaken hands in the middle of the pitch, with Gale also raising his gloved fist in triumph as his team celebrated on their dressing room balcony, when news came through from Trent Bridge at 3.06pm that Nottinghamshire had been bowled out without collecting the batting bonus points they required to keep the title race alive.
"There's no better place for us to receive the trophy than Lord's, if it isn't Headingley of course, and I believe this season's title win has been a greater achievement given the circumstances of having so many players going off to play for England right across the summer," Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire's director of professional cricket, said. "We've also done it with two-and-a-half games still to go.
"We played brilliantly to win last year, don't get me wrong, but it's been a real squad effort this season. It's been frustrating at times losing so many players to England but we knew, going into the season, that this would probably happen so we have prepared for that. Credit to all our support staff, too, for what they have done."
In truth, there has not been much of a race for the Championship title this summer, because Yorkshire have been seemingly too powerful to be challenged by anyone. Middlesex, indeed, plunged to a barely believable 0 for 3 after just six balls of this game as their hopes of holding up Yorkshire disappeared in a flurry of wickets.
By lunch Middlesex had staggered to 92 for 7, and their first innings did not last long afterwards with Tim Bresnan sending back James Franklin and Toby Roland-Jones, leg-before aiming across the line, in the space of four balls during the fourth over after the interval to finish with 4 for 30.
Fittingly, however, it was Sidebottom who wrapped up the innings by bowling Tim Murtagh for 3 to earn himself the superb final figures of 12-5-18-5. The other Middlesex wicket to fall was taken by offspinner James Middlebrook, who came on for the last over before lunch and promptly had John Simpson caught at the wicket with the final ball of the morning for 28.
Sidebottom, the 37-year-old former England left-arm fast bowler, removed Stirling, Nick Compton and Dawid Malan with the second, fifth and sixth balls of the game's first over after Gale had won the toss under overcast skies. Stirling was leg-before to a perfectly-pitched inswinger, giving Sidebottom his 700th first-class wicket, Compton caught behind off one angled across him and Malan bowled first ball by a beauty which spreadeagled his stumps.
Gale's decision to bowl first bore even more fruit when Sidebottom had Stevie Ezkinazi, a 21-year-old on debut, caught for 4 by Adam Lyth at second slip to leave Middlesex on 14 for 4.
Moxon added: "What Ryan did today was remarkable, and that first over epitomised what he is all about. He's contracted to the end of next season, and he still works so hard on his cricket. But, as a team, we have bowled really well this season."
Sidebottom's new ball spell was a magnificent 6-2-11-4 and Yorkshire, who began the match knowing five bonus points by them would ensure successive Championship titles for the first time since 1968, actually only required their three bowling points because both Middlesex and Notts had bad days with the bat.
Following Sidebottom's initial burst, there was a 30-run partnership for the fifth wicket between opener Sam Robson and Leicestershire-bound allrounder Neil Dexter before Bresnan removed both players in his first and fourth overs. Dexter, on 18, edged Bresnan's fifth ball to wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd, diving to his right to hold a good catch, and Robson's 45-ball 26 ended eleven runs later when he edged to Lees at first slip to leave Middlesex 55 for 6.
Franklin also played and missed several times at Steven Patterson in an unhappy 12, which ended when he swished to third slip, but at least Simpson offered six fours in a punchy 22-ball cameo before Middlebrook struck at the end of an action-packed first session.
When Yorkshire batted, Roland-Jones won lbw appeals to claim the wickets of Lyth, for 25, and Gary Ballance for a duck, in a new ball spell of 2 for 34 and he later returned to have Middlebrook caught behind for 4 as Yorkshire's innings fell away following Gale's exit. Murtagh also picked up the scalps of Hodd for 20 and Patterson for 0 before bad light ended play four overs early.
Lees had been leg-before for 39 to Stirling's offspin on the stroke of tea, while Dexter chipped away at Yorkshire's middle order after tea to remove both Jack Leaning and Bresnan lbw, before ending Gale's fine knock, which included 18 fours, to earn figures of 3 for 24.
With a lead already of 132, however, Yorkshire are scenting a 10th win from 14 Championship games this season. "We want victory here, for a start," replied Moxon, when asked about Yorkshire's future ambitions. "But if we are to surpass the great Yorkshire sides of the past we have to win a few more Championships yet, although it's great we now have a chance to leave that sort of legacy."