Southampton, September 14 - 17, 2015, LV= County Championship Division One
400/9d & forfeit
(T:304) 97/4d & 305/5

Yorkshire won by 5 wickets


Gale blows, Hampshire down?

It was Yorkshire who faced criticism if their decision to collude with Hampshire and engineer a run-chase ended up having a decisive effect on the relegation battle. It was Gale who absolved all, his third hundred of the season setting up a five-wicket vi

Yorkshire 97 for 4 dec and 305 for 5 (Gale 125, Leaning 76) beat Hampshire 400 for 9 dec (Dawson 140) and forfeit by five wickets
It was Andrew Gale who looked James Vince in the eye, took his outstretched hand and said "Game on". It was Yorkshire who faced criticism if their decision to collude with Hampshire and engineer a run-chase ended up having a decisive effect on the relegation battle. It was Gale who absolved all, his third hundred of the season setting up a five-wicket victory on the final afternoon.
Crouched over his bat like a blacksmith at his anvil, Gale sweated and grafted and, above all, accumulated runs. Vince had offered Yorkshire the chance to chase 304 in 96 overs, hoping to trade the possibility of a further seven points for 16 for the win. Gale, keen to prove that the champions have not checked out of the 2015 season early, did most of the hard work himself to end Hampshire's four-match unbeaten run and leave them clinging to their Division One status.
In doing so, Yorkshire strode past Sussex's Division One points record of 257, achieved in 2003, and left themselves one more match in which to eclipse the ten victories achieved previously by Sussex, Surrey, Lancashire and Durham.
It had been assumed that the fizz had gone out of Yorkshire as soon as the champagne was uncorked at Lord's last week. Instead, it was Hampshire who went flat after taking three early wickets, excitement at the possibility of a victory that would lift them up to the coat tails of Somerset and Sussex slowly replaced by a creeping realisation that defeat leaves them a long road from safety.
They are not mathematically down but require a handsome victory away to Nottinghamshire in the final round, as well as one of the two teams above them to receive a thorough slippering. Their best hope may lie in the fact Yorkshire, chasing an 11th win, host third-bottom Sussex - who have a 16-point advantage on Hampshire - next week.
Vince would have been hoping that fortune favoured the brave; instead it largely favoured Gale. He was thumped on the pads by Fidel Edwards, slinging the ball down amid a blur of jewellery from round the wicket, and edged Ryan McLaren short of slip but the crucial moment came with Gale on 35, facing Ryan Stevenson. Squeezing down on a full delivery that tailed away outside off, a thick edge flew towards Liam Dawson, Hampshire's first-innings centurion, at second slip only for the chance to go down.
That would have left Yorkshire 101 for 4 shortly after lunch. Instead, Gale and Jack Leaning extended a partnership that had begun at 37 for 3 until it was virtually decisive. Leaning, who had not passed 50 in the Championship since June, gave barely a chance until he was finally undone by Edwards with the score on 227. Gale fell with 40 required, a third wicket for the fiery West Indian, but by then the hurly-burly was done, the battle lost and won.
Gale had previously suggested that Yorkshire would be open to discussions about securing a result in this severely rain-affected match, with only 150 overs possible in the preceding three days. Unbeaten until last week, Yorkshire placed a not-insignificant amount of pride on the line, too. They have only lost four times in the Championship under Jason Gillespie, in almost four seasons, and never consecutively. The last time Yorkshire were beaten twice on the trot was in May 2011, a season that led to relegation.
As the Hampshire members settled into their seats in the Ingleby-Mackenzie and Warne stands, perhaps expecting the contents of the day's packed lunch to be on a par with the cricket for excitement, news began to filter around the ground. Instead of Yorkshire batting out the day while Hampshire chased a couple of bowling bonus points to go with five for the draw, a fourth-innings chase was afoot.
Far from conniving at the expense of Sussex and Somerset, this seemed a legitimate attempt to achieve a result - and one the umpires and ECB official present judged to be fair. In the absence of any declaration bowling, contrivance was minimal; and given Hampshire had taken control during what play was possible, you might even say there was something sporting about the agreement.
Vince's gamble looked an inspired one as Yorkshire's top three were removed inside a dozen overs. Adam Lyth gave the cavalry horn a brief parp by striking the first ball for four but Edwards, revving his engine down in front of the pavilion, soon parted the Yorkshire openers by swinging the ball into Alex Lees, a wickedly low bounce taking it into the stumps via the toe of the bat.
A moment of individual brilliance in the field then strengthened the impression that the force was with Hampshire in their attempts to emulate the great relegation escapes of 2008 and 2010. Lyth tucked Edwards off his legs and immediately set off, only for Jimmy Adams to glide across from midwicket, pick up right-handed, transfer to his left and hit one-and-a-half stumps with the batsman a couple of inches short. Gary Ballance was then caught down the leg side, before Gale and Leaning set about launching the counterattack.
Gale missed out on lifting the Championship trophy last year but now he has held it aloft twice within a week. This time it was for the Sky cameras and he will get to do it again at Headingley in the final round. It is safe to assume it is an obligation he will not tire of for a while.

Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick

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LV= County Championship Division One