Yorkshire secured their second consecutive County Championship title a matter of days after Michael Klinger’s unbeaten century dashed White Rose hopes of a Lord’s final in the Royal London One-Day Cup.
They needed just five bonus points from their encounter with Middlesex at Lord’s to mathematically guarantee the title, and Ryan Sidebottom inspired his side to maximum bowling points with a triple-wicket maiden in the opening over of the game. Paul Stirling, Nick Compton and Dawid Malan have all had success this season, but were powerless to stop the determined Yorkshire veteran.
It fell to the Lord’s PA, however, to confirm that Yorkshire had retained the trophy. He relaid the news that Nottinghamshire had only been able to collect one batting bonus point against Durham, and could therefore no longer pass Yorkshire’s points tally.
Middlesex were bowled out for just 106, and although Yorkshire lost eight wickets in reply, it matters little now in terms of the result. They finished day one on 238-9, and they seem well-placed to extend their unbeaten run. In 2014, the only team to claim 16 points by beating Yorkshire was Middlesex on this ground, thanks to a stunning double-century from retired Australian opener Chris Rogers. All that remains is for Yorkshire to wipe that blot from their 2015 copybook.
It was fitting that on the day his side won the Championship for the second consecutive year, Yorkshire skipper Andrew Gale put in a commanding performance with the bat after what has been a disappointing year for him personally. He resigned the one-day captaincy due to poor form and fatigue, and he averaged in the low 30s before this innings. He contributed 98, falling two runs short of a cathartic century when he was caught by Sam Robson off the part-time bowling of Neil Dexter.
Yorkshire are also still chasing a record points tally for the County Championship since the competition was split into two divisions. They narrowly failed to achieve this last year, and if they continue to outclass teams as comprehensively as they have been doing, it remains well within their grasp.
Yorkshire director of cricket Martyn Moxon has rated this year’s title defence as a greater achievement than claiming the trophy in 2014, and it is hard to disagree with him. His side have won comfortably despite the absence of Yorkshire’s England contingent (Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Adam Lyth, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett have all been away on international duty at various points), and several members of the team including Andrew Gale himself and opener Alex Lees, have struggled for form.
While the club’s pre-season emphasis on improving results in white-ball cricket has yielded modest (though tangible) returns, what cannot be disputed is that Jason Gillespie and Andrew Gale have together constructed a formidable Championship-winning machine that will no doubt be seen as the team to beat in 2016.