JASON GILLESPIE said Yorkshire showed the fighting spirit of champions after they came within a whisker of supplying the perfect finish to a fairytale season.
Yorkshire came within one wicket of beating Somerset in a nail-biting climax to their final match of the summer yesterday.
Needing 182 to win from a minimum of 44 overs, Somerset seemed to be coasting at 74-2 in the 19th over.
But Yorkshire hit back with the heroism of champions to leave the visitors clinging on at 151-9, the last-wicket pair of Jamie Overton and Alfonso Thomas surviving the final 37 balls to force the draw.
It was a stirring recovery by Yorkshire, who had looked odds-on to suffer only their second Championship defeat of the summer – and only their fourth in three seasons under first team coach Gillespie – when they conceded a first innings deficit of 184 earlier in the piece.
Yorkshire were second-best as they mustered only 253 in their first innings, Somerset responding with 437. But after going into the final day on 148-2 in their second innings, a deficit of 36, Yorkshire rallied to reach 365 before so nearly gaining an improbable triumph.
“That fightback showed why we’re the champions,” said Gillespie. “The way we stuck to our task, the way we never gave up, it showed why we finished on top of the league.
“Somerset had the advantage earlier in the game, no question, and they got a good start to their second-innings run chase.
“But we kept at it and kept getting breakthroughs, putting their batsmen back under pressure.”
There seemed little hope of a Yorkshire win when play began beneath leaden skies.
Not only were Yorkshire in deficit and facing a battle to save the match, but there was limited time to forge sufficiently far ahead to give themselves chance of dismissing their opponents.
Gary Ballance (50) and Joe Root (17) were the not out batsmen, and Ballance was soon pinned for 69 by Peter Trego.
But the dynamic of the contest changed when Yorkshire raced into a 104-run lead through a fourth-wicket stand of 110 in 18 overs between Root and Jonny Bairstow, the latter injecting trademark impetus with positive strokeplay.
Bairstow contributed 35 to their 50 partnership – raised from just 64 balls – and played some lovely shots straight down the ground.
The wicketkeeper had gone to within one run of his half-century when he was caught behind attempting to hook a delivery from Overton.
Yorkshire looked relatively comfortable at 313-4 shortly after lunch, when the draw looked likely, but the departure of Root for an excellent 97, bowled by left-arm spinner Jack Leach, triggered a collapse and renewed Somerset hope.
It was the first of six wickets to fall for 52 runs as Yorkshire were hurried out by the excellent Trego, who captured four of those wickets to finish with a career-best 7-84 and match figures of 11-153.
Trego had Adil Rashid caught behind, Jack Leaning held at first slip, and Steve Patterson and Ryan Sidebottom caught at second slip as he ran amok with his medium-pace.
Leach captured the other wicket when Rich Pyrah was smartly stumped.
Needing to score at 4.13 runs per over to win the game and spoil Yorkshire’s Championship-winning celebrations, Somerset began poorly when Ryan Sidebottom had Johann Myburgh brilliantly caught by a diving Rich Pyrah at point.
But Marcus Trescothick and Nick Compton showed all their class and experience to add 55 for the second-wicket, Trescothick playing the dominant hand.
The former England man had 44 to his name when he holed out to deep mid-wicket off Rashid, having faced 48 balls and hit nine fours. Compton fell with the score on 74, bowled by Jack Brooks, as Yorkshire suddenly stormed back into the match.
But Somerset’s chase was scuppered by the loss of three wickets in four balls with the total on 83.
Steve Patterson trapped Craig Kieswetter lbw, James Hildreth was run-out by Bairstow after he tried to steal a quick single after being hit on the pad by a ball from Brooks, and Brooks bowled the dangerous Trego for a golden duck.
Tim Groenewald was caught behind off Sidebottom, Leach stumped off Rashid and Tom Abell caught at square-leg off Brooks as Somerset slipped to 135-9, Brooks finishing with 68 wickets for the season at an average of 28.02, beating Steve Kirby’s record of 67 in 2003 for the most by a Yorkshire bowler since the Championship was split into two divisions.
“Jack was fantastic,” said Gillespie. “It’s an excellent achievement and I’m as pleased as punch for him because he works his butt off. It was just an awesome day’s cricket and I couldn’t have asked any more from the lads.
“They’re absolutely spent, the bowlers are cooked, and they gave everything they had for our loyal supporters.”