YORKSHIRE captain Andrew Gale is expected to be cleared of racism in an embarrassing climbdown by the England and Wales Cricket Board.
The ECB charged Gale for his comments to Lancashire’s Ashwell Prince during the County Championship match at Old Trafford earlier this month.
Gale told Prince, a black South African, to “f*** off back to your own country, you Kolpak f*****”, during a foul-mouthed exchange between both men.
Kolpak cricketers are those who qualify to play in England as non-overseas players due to European Law, and there has long been resentment among county professionals that they are taking the place of young, home-grown talent.
The ECB banned Gale for the last two games of the season only to step up their case by considering whether there was a racist aspect to his remarks, a move met with widespread derision by the cricketing community.
The governing body – who also banned Gale from lifting the Championship trophy when Yorkshire won the title at Trent Bridge two weeks ago – have been criticised for making a Table Mountain out of a molehill, and their case effectively collapsed when Prince told a South African internet radio station that he did not consider Gale’s comments a racial slur.
The episode descended into further farce when it was reported last weekend that the ECB were still determined to pursue Gale as it was, in fact, Prince’s batting partner at Old Trafford, Usman Khawaja, who was instrumental in taking the matter further – a claim Khawaja has denied.
Since then, the ECB are understood to have been desperately trying to find a way out of the saga, while at the same time endeavouring to save face in an episode that has badly tarnished relations between themselves and Yorkshire.
The club, who are thought to have disciplined Gale internally but who have vigorously defended him against any suggestion his remarks were racist, could potentially seek an apology and/or compensation on Gale’s behalf.
The ECB were last night understood to be preparing a statement which could theoretically include further sanction against the Yorkshire captain, while at the same time giving themselves an exit strategy.
Yorkshire and the ECB last night declined to comment on a matter that has needlessly soured Yorkshire’s end-of-season celebrations.
The affair has placed Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves, who is also ECB deputy chairman, in an extremely awkward position and may strengthen calls for him to succeed chairman Giles Clarke, whose leadership is not to everyone’s taste.
Although banned from receiving the Championship trophy at Trent Bridge, Gale will head the Yorkshire celebrations today when the cup is re-presented at Headingley on the final day of the county season.
Gale is set to receive the trophy in a Yorkshire ceremony, rather than an ECB one, after the game against Somerset in front of the North-East Enclosure before the players undertake a lap of honour.
Whether those celebrations extend to the preservation of a proud unbeaten record in Championship cricket stretching back to last April remains to be seen.
Yorkshire go into day four on 148-2 in the second innings, a deficit of 36, after the visitors lifted their overnight 319-3 to 437 in reply to Yorkshire’s first innings 253.
After the high of the title win in Nottingham, Yorkshire were understandably sluggish in the opening half of this game only to hit back strongly yesterday beneath mainly cloudy skies.
Yorkshire’s bowling – erratic on day two – was much more accurate as Ryan Sidebottom and Jack Brooks set the tone with some probing deliveries. Brooks got rid of the promising Tom Abell, who added only four to his overnight 71 before he edged to Adam Lyth at second slip.
Steve Patterson, Yorkshire’s best bowler here, had nightwatchman Jack Leach caught behind for 43 and then bowled James Hildreth.
Somerset slipped to 424-7 on the stroke of lunch when Adil Rashid had Peter Trego caught by acting captain Joe Root at cover, ending a quickfire innings of 41 and a stand of 51 in just eight overs with Craig Kieswetter.
It was the first of four wickets for Rashid in 14 balls as he polished off the innings straight after the interval by having Tim Groenewald and Alfonso Thomas caught at short-leg by Jack Leaning, and Kieswetter smartly stumped by Jonny Bairstow. Patterson finished with a season’s-best 4-54 as Somerset secured a 184-run advantage, the largest –and only the fourth – first innings lead against Yorkshire all year.
Lyth and Alex Lees played some handsome strokes during an opening stand of 44, ended when Lees feathered Trego behind to finish with 971 Championship runs for the campaign at 44.13.
Lyth ended with 1,489 runs at 67.68 after striking 51 yesterday before top-edging Trego to mid-on, Gary Ballance accumulating 50 and Root 17 before bad light ended play with 17.4 overs remaining.