WHAT a difference a year makes.
On September 12, 2014, Andrew Gale was in tears when he was denied the chance to lift the County Championship trophy at Trent Bridge.
On September 12, 2015, the only tears that threatened to fall from his face were tears of joy as he lifted the trophy at the home of cricket.
From agony to ecstasy in the space of 12 months, the wheel had come full circle for a proud Yorkshire captain.
Gale, a leader in the best traditions of the great Yorkshire captains, a man who wears his White Rose heart on his sleeve, received the silverware from Ian Lovett, deputy chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, in front of the Lord’s pavilion on Saturday.
The moment might have been scripted to embarrass the ECB as much as garland Gale, who was banned from lifting the cup last year amid spurious suggestions that he had racially abused Lancashire batsman Ashwell Prince during a Roses match.
Gale, who later admitted that there were times when he did not want to leave his house when the furore was at its height, took delivery of the trophy on the ECB’s front lawn.
The smell of wrongs being righted drifted across the St John’s Wood air, making this year’s title success all the more sweet.
“I was crying at the end of the game last year, not being able to lift the trophy,” admitted Gale, whose family were at Lord’s to share in his moment of triumph and redemption.
“To be given the opportunity this time, at the home of cricket as well, is an unbelievable feeling and something I will never forget.
“It was obviously a very tough pill to swallow at the end of last season, and you do wonder if that chance is going to come round again.
“But I’m very fortunate that I’m surrounded by a great bunch of players, and a great bunch of coaches, and that we’ve been able to win the trophy once more.”
Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first-team coach, described Gale’s treatment last summer as “a debacle that made my blood boil”.
The former Australia fast bowler admitted that it had helped drive the squad to win back-to-back titles.
“It’s been a huge driving force for us,” said Gillespie.
“I was lucky that I had a pair of sunglasses on when Andrew was presented with the trophy because I was certainly feeling pretty emotional.
“For reasons known only to the people in charge, they suspended Andrew last year and denied him the chance to lift the trophy.
“But, full credit to Andrew, he was relentless with his training and preparation for this season, and everyone – players and support staff – was absolutely determined to back up last year’s success.”
Only one thing took the gloss off Gale’s day and Yorkshire’s celebrations on Saturday – a 246-run defeat to Middlesex.
It was only Yorkshire’s fourth defeat in 64 Championship games dating back to August, 2011, 62 of which have been played under Gillespie.
But after Yorkshire were confirmed as champions on day one at Lord’s, they perhaps sub-consciously took their foot off the gas as Middlesex improbably overturned a first innings deficit of 193.
After being set 381 to win on the final day, Yorkshire crashed from 92-2 to 134 all-out to suffer their first defeat in the tournament this summer, ending a run of 26 unbeaten Championship games since they lost at Lord’s in April last year – their longest unbeaten run since 1946.
“Since the news came through that we’d won the Championship, we played some pretty average cricket,” said Gale.
“We mentioned every morning that we had to make sure that we were focused and ready for what the day held, and that we didn’t want to be sat there with a beer at the end of the game having lifted the trophy but lost the match.
“Our unbeaten record meant a lot to us, and I expressed my disappointment to the lads and said that we need to make sure that we haven’t quite got our flip-flops on for the end of the season.
“But, fair play to Middlesex, they did to us what we’ve done to a lot of sides this season, and I’m incredibly proud of what the lads have achieved again this year.”
Match report and Hampshire Championship preview: Page 8