JASON GILLESPIE is bracing himself for “an emotional few days” as he prepares to lead Yorkshire for the final time in their must-win title battle against Middlesex at Lord’s.
The Australian is leaving after five years as first-team coach to rejoin his wife and children in Adelaide.
Under Gillespie, Yorkshire have won two Championships and achieved one runners-up place and one promotion.
They have also twice reached T20 Finals Day and twice made the semi-finals of the 50-over Cup.
Yorkshire can farewell Gillespie with a hat-trick of titles if they beat leaders Middlesex and Somerset fail to gain as many points as Yorkshire manage this week in their final fixture against Notts at Taunton.
Regardless of whether Yorkshire become the first club to do the hat-trick since they achieved it in 1968, it will be a bittersweet finale for Gillespie, who has enjoyed a remarkable run of success at Headingley.
“It will be an emotional few days, for sure,” said Gillespie, for whom another Championship would represent the icing on the cake.
“I’ve had a great time at Yorkshire, and it’s been a lot of fun.
“The lads have been brilliant while I’ve been here, as have the supporters, the support staff, the media, everyone.
“I can’t thank everyone enough, but the time is right to move on.”
Gillespie is optimistic that Yorkshire can go out on a high and insists that they have enjoyed another good summer come what may.
The county were most people’s favourites going into the season, but they have not had everything their own way, with injuries and international calls biting deep.
“I think we’ve got a really good chance (of winning the title),” said Gillespie.
“We have to beat Middlesex, simple as that, and all we can do is try to play our best cricket.
“It would be nice to finish on a high, but to finish second, third, or whatever would still be a great achievement.
“I’m very proud of the lads and how they’ve gone about things, and I’m proud of them regardless of what happens this week.”
Gillespie’s troops would guarantee the Championship by claiming a maximum 24-point victory.
Sides gain 16 points for a win and up to eight bonus points –five for batting if they score 400 inside the first 110 overs of their first innings, and three for bowling if they take nine wickets inside the first 110 overs of their opponent’s first innings.
Middlesex, who are nine points clear, would confirm the title with a win, but Somerset – one point behind Yorkshire in third – could yet claim their first Championship pennant, and they would pip Yorkshire on the tie-breaker of fewest defeats if both sides finish level on points.
Yorkshire must buck a trend that has seen them lose on their last two Championship visits to Lord’s, while they also lost to Middlesex at Scarborough earlier this summer.
“Middlesex have played very well against us in recent times, there’s no doubt about that,” said Gillespie.
“They’re a very good side, and we always seem to have cracking contests.
“We just have to be really aggressive and positive and see how we go.
“Hopefully, we can get over the line, and may the best team win.”
Yorkshire are without Jonny Bairstow, who was controversially made unavailable by England to play in the game ahead of the forthcoming Bangladesh tour.
Bairstow wanted to play, but Yorkshire were blocked by England director of cricket Andrew Strauss and coach Trevor Bayliss, who preferred that he rest ahead of his winter commitments.
Adil Rashid also misses the match after asking to rest prior to England duty, a decision criticised by Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale on Twitter on Sunday.
But Rashid yesterday used his own Twitter account to give an additional reason for his request to sit out Yorkshire’s most important match of the season, with the player’s grandmother believed to be unwell.
The leg-spinner wrote: “Unfortunately I have not travelled down with the Yorkshire lads this week as one of my closest family members has been very ill and was recently admitted to hospital.
“I didn’t feel that I am in a strong enough mental frame of mind to be at my best, although I did make myself available if I was required to play I felt I could be letting the lads down.
“But coupled with my personal reasons I have also had a heavy period of cricket recently for Yorkshire and England, which has been both physically and mentally draining and it is very unfortunate timing.
“Family comes first for me and I will be away on England duty this winter with a busy playing schedule.
“I have been in touch with the Yorkshire players and coaches and I will be wishing the lads all the best this game and I am desperately hoping we can lift the trophy for a third year in a row.”