IF anyone epitomised what winning the County Championship meant to Yorkshire yesterday it was Martyn Moxon.
The county’s director of cricket was close to tears as he addressed the media on the boundary’s edge, fighting to make himself heard above the cheers of a thousand Yorkshire supporters who had gathered in front of the pavilion to celebrate.
It was all Moxon could do to stop himself crying – something his fellow son of Barnsley, club president Dickie Bird, seemingly does at the drop of a hat – as he reflected on a title that, for him personally, has been seven years in the making.
But the man who was appointed in 2007 – and who had never previously won the Championship as a player or coach – said he was, first and foremost, proud of the players.
“That’s what I said to them in the dressing room, that I’m just so proud of them,” said Moxon after Yorkshire beat Nottinghamshire, their closest rivals, by an innings and 152 runs to clinch the Championship with one game to spare.
“The way we’ve played this week epitomises what the team are about, and to not give Notts a sniff in such an important game is testament to the quality of the players.
“The character, the skill, the determination – all the attributes that good teams need – I think we’ve shown them this week.
“We knew what was at stake coming into this match, and the lads have done an incredible job.”
Moxon, who played 277 first-class matches for Yorkshire between 1981 and 1997, scoring just under 19,000 runs at 43, had a brief spell as Yorkshire’s director of cricket before joining Durham as coach in 2001.
He helped create a team at Chester-le-Street that went on to win three Championships in six years before returning to Yorkshire as director of professional cricket. Moxon has had his critics, those who say he is a lovely bloke but who pointed out that he had never won a Championship in more than three decades in the game.
But on September 12, 2014, he put that particular statistic to bed in emphatic fashion.
“I’ve been in the game a long time so, clearly, it’s a big moment for me to finally be part of a Championship-winning team,” he said. “I’ve been close a couple of times, particularly here at Yorkshire, and I’ve been involved in developing teams that have had success.
“But to finally finish it off this time is certainly the highlight of my cricketing career, and I’d put it above playing for England.
“Clearly, playing for England is a fantastic feeling and achievement, but I think the background to this, the hard work that has gone into it and everything that’s involved in winning a Championship, for me this feels the best thing, for sure.”
Moxon paid tribute to his fellow coaches – first-team boss Jason Gillespie, second-team coach Richard Dawson, director of cricket development Ian Dews and academy and development coach Richard Damms. He also acknowledged the work of former second XI boss Paul Farbrace, now No 2 to England head coach Peter Moores.
“It’s been a real team effort off-the-field as well,” he said.
“All those guys have played their part and helped create an environment in which the players can go out and express themselves. It’s taken a bit of time, but we’ve got a squad now that gives us something to build on for the future. It’s a fantastic feeling to finally win the Championship, but I don’t want us to be just one-hit wonders.”
There seems little chance of that on the evidence of this match and the season as a whole.
Nottinghamshire, second in the league, were blown away as though they were second-bottom; it was Yorkshire’s eighth victory of the season, and their fifth by an innings.
The only question going into day four was when Yorkshire would clinch the coveted prize.
They knew victory would mean that neither Nottinghamshire nor third-placed Warwickshire could catch them ahead of their final match against Somerset at Headingley, a game that promises to be something of a victory parade as Yorkshire plan to show off the trophy to their loyal supporters.
Beneath cloudy skies that followed three days of unbroken sunshine in Nottingham, the hosts resumed on 149-5 in the follow-on, 180 behind, and were soon in further difficulty thanks to Ryan Sidebottom.
The former England left-armer, who won two Championships with Nottinghamshire after gaining one with Yorkshire in 2001, bowled nightwatchman Gary Keedy with the 16th delivery of the morning, a fine ball that clipped the top of off stump.
Yorkshire knew the pennant was theirs – as if there was any doubt – when Sidebottom’s next wicket accounted for Nottinghamshire captain Chris Read, who was undone by another superb delivery that took the outside edge on its way to wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow.
When Sidebottom had Luke Fletcher caught at second slip by Adam Lyth, to leave Nottinghamshire 172-8, the oldest swinger in town had yet another five-wicket haul – the 26th of his career, and his second of the season.
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid pinned Jake Ball lbw and, at 11.37am precisely, came the magic moment.
Sidebottom, bowling like a dream from the Pavilion End, wrapped things up by having James Taylor caught by substitute fielder Rich Pyrah at point from a wild slash that hoisted the white flag, ending an otherwise courageous innings of 75 from 154 balls.
Pyrah, on for Gary Ballance, who hurt his right hand when dropping Taylor off Sidebottom the previous night, threw the ball skywards as the Yorkshire players converged in triumph.
Sidebottom had 4-6 in the morning in 7.2 overs, giving him final figures of 6-30.
What followed will remain imprinted on the memories of all those Yorkshire supporters present, roughly 1,000.
After a few minutes spent together in the dressing room, when Moxon spoke of his pride in the group, the players came back out on to the field to receive the trophy and the acclaim of their joyful followers.
Songs were sung, photographs were snapped, and the party lasted long into the afternoon.
Exactly 4,767 days since they last won the Championship, Yorkshire were the kings of England once more.