Yorkshire victory builds Championship lead
Yorkshire 425 and 200 for 4 beat Warwickshire 253 and 371 by six wickets
Yorkshire's young pretenders revealed real character on a final day that threatened to end in frustration but eventually yielded the win that sends them 21 points clear at the top of the First Division, signalling that their Championship ambitions are no passing fancy.
They did so by chasing down a target of 200 from 37 overs with 14 balls to spare, thanks largely to Jacques Rudolph, their stand-in captain, who hit 80 before being run out, and to 20-year-old Jonathan Bairstow, who made light of the responsibility on his young shoulders by hitting an unbeaten 64 off 61 balls.
The gap they have opened between themselves and erstwhile title favourites Nottinghamshire is a significant one, even though the Trent Bridge side, beaten at Essex on Wednesday, have played two fewer matches. Equally important to the plot as the race builds towards a climax is the fact that Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire have still to meet, home and away. It means that Yorkshire can in effect control their own destiny, regardless of what their rivals achieve against other opponents.
It is to their disadvantage, potentially, that skipper Andrew Gale has made an impressive contribution to England Lions' success in their triangular one-day competition, making him a candidate, along with Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad, for further international duty in this crowded summer. But, given that they pulled off a tense victory here without that trio, they can reassure themselves that their resources are deep.
Lack of experience, particularly in their seam bowling, is the factor most likely to count against them. Lack of spirit or enthusiasm, however, will not. Those qualities they have in abundance. Here they might easily have buckled, defied as they were initially by a magnificent, epic innings by Warwickshire's Rikki Clarke, whose resilience over six hours left him unbeaten on 127 and gave Yorkshire a target of 200 to win, essentially in one session.
It was a good many more than they had expected to be chasing after Warwickshire closed day three only 21 in front, three wickets down and with one man, Jim Troughton, likely to bat only if required, after taking a blow on the head from West Indian pace bowler Tino Best on Wednesday.
Clarke survived eight partners in the course of his epic, seven of them on the final day, three before lunch, the first of whom had been the most doughty in 18-year-old Ateeq Javid, who fell two runs short of a maiden half-century but should be proud of his career-best 48, which included a joust with the fiery Best in which he showed character beyond his years.
His two-hour stint in Warwickshire's cause ended in the ninth over of the morning when Adil Rashid found a thin edge as the youngster pushed forward. Ironically, Best had been frustrated again in the preceding over when his lofted drive fell just short of mid-wicket.
Clarke needed more partners with similarly adhesive qualities but after Yorkshire had taken the new ball Warwickshire's innings threatened to subside rapidly. Tim Ambrose lost his off stump to a fine ball from Rich Pyrah for 16 and Steffan Piolet was leg before to Steve Patterson for just 4, at which point, at 244 for 6, Warwickshire's lead was only 72.
In Neil Carter, Clarke now had an experienced partner alongside him at the crease but when Carter fell seven overs after lunch, leg before to a ball from Rashid that the batsman seemed to indicate, through his body language, might have been missing the target, Warwickshire's prospects looked to be fading at 285 for 7, which put them only 113 in front.
The wicket gave Rashid his second five-for in consecutive matches but Clarke was not done. When Best returned at the football stand end he hit a textbook straight drive to complete his hundred, a magnificent effort spanning five and a half hours, with six fours and two sixes. It was his first in the Championship since April of last year and only his second in four years.
But the issue for Warwickshire was about the man at the other end. Imran Tahir's first couple of swipes did not suggest a long occupation but a few carefully chosen words of advice from Clarke seemed to have the desired effect and in the end he stayed with his unshiftable partner for 17 vital overs, in which Warwickshire's lead grew by 75 runs.
In the event, the innings ended slightly farcically, the last three wickets falling in as many overs after Tahir miscued Patterson to mid-off. Boyd Rankin was run out as Clarke decided his shot to cover off Rashid was worth two, Pyrah's throw to the bowler's end finding Rankin well short of his ground. Then Troughton, who had retired hurt on day three following a blow on the head from Best, perished with a steer to second slip off Patterson, having faced only three more balls.
Nonetheless, Clarke's superb unbeaten 127 had given Yorkshire a much taller task than they anticipated, making for an exciting final session. The timing of Warwickshire's last wicket aided Yorkshire, allowing tea to be taken early with no loss of overs between innings, but the start of the chase was less helpful, as leading run scorer Adam Lyth steered the eighth ball straight to second slip.
But Rudolph, with the additional incentive of his first win in 11 attempts as Yorkshire's acting captain, looked determined that his experience would not be wasted, although he lost another potentially vital ally when Anthony McGrath was leg before to a ball from Rankin that kept horribly low.
Rudolph kept picking off the Warwickshire bowling, however, with Tahir in particular struggling to keep him in check as he sought the variation that might yield a wicket. The South African went to 50 off 64 balls, by which time Bairstow was beginning to hit the ball cleanly and growing in confidence.
The requirement was coming down steadily, dropping below 100 with 14 overs to go. But there was a setback around the corner. Rudolph glanced Piolet to leg, where Rankin fielded. There was an easy single but to come back for a second was to take an unnecessary risk. Rankin's throw was straight and Rudolph was clearly out of his ground as Ambrose whipped off the bails.
With 10.4 overs to go, 73 runs were still needed. But Bairstow was undaunted. Darren Maddy proved no more effective at stemming the tide than Tahir and Warwickshire's fielding left much to be desired. Two overs conceded 25 in total and a six and a four by Bairstow off Maddy took the requirement down to 39 in seven.
Bairstow's half-century came in 52 balls. The loss of Gerard Brophy, bowled sweeping Tahir, proved nothing more than a momentary interruption. Rashid is never less than positive with bat in hand and he added 16 off 13 balls before Bairstow swept Tahir for four to win the match.
"There is a long way to go but this is a young side showing lots of maturity," Rudolph said. "We still have to play Nottinghamshire twice, which is in our favour."