YORKSHIRE captain Andrew Gale has turned up the heat on County Championship leaders Middlesex by insisting the pressure is firmly on their shoulders ahead of next week’s final round of matches.
The Tykes, beaten convincingly by Somerset on Wednesday, were handed something of a reprieve after Middlesex were restricted to a draw following yesterday’s final day against Lancashire at Old Trafford.
Heading into an intriguing final week, Middlesex stand nine points clear of reigning top-flight champions Yorkshire, while Somerset are just a point adrift of the White Rose in third in a compelling three-way battle for silverware.
The top two square off at Lord’s next week in a mouth-watering encounter, while Somerset host already-relegated Nottinghamshire at Taunton. Both games start on Tuesday.
Middlesex remain in the box seat and the equation for them is a simple one: if they beat Yorkshire, then a first title since 1993 will be heading to Lord’s.
But a Yorkshire win would seal a third successive championship – provided they equal or better Somerset’s points haul in the final round.
Gale told The Yorkshire Post: “There is always a twist and it is in black and white now and we have to go to Lord’s and win, which we are more than capable of doing.
“Two weeks ago, people would not have given Somerset a chance. But look at what they have done after coming here and turning us over.
“But there is no reason why we cannot go to Lord’s and win the game there.
“In my opinion, the pressure is on them (Middlesex) and they have not won a Championship for a long time and they have been top of the table for the past two or three months.
“We have just got to go there and play our attacking brand of cricket and see where it takes us.
“Obviously, we will have to play better than against Somerset. We did not play anywhere near the way we wanted to with our home record and did not see that coming at all.
“We were bitterly disappointed with the way we performed and had we got a win, we would have been somewhere near now.”
Despite briefly flirting with a dart for victory through a Jos Buttler cameo, Lancashire held on for a draw against Middlesex at Old Trafford.
Resuming on the final day with a lead of 140, David Malan and John Simpson’s stand of 151 provided the backbone of Middlesex’s second innings 259-8 declared, which set up a chase of 309 from 44 overs.
Malan and Simpson had come together with their side wavering on the third afternoon, but had dug in to reach stumps and it was more of the same against high-quality bowling from Simon Kerrigan (who finished with 6-86, and match figures of 10-166) and Kyle Jarvis.
Lancashire opted to promote Buttler, England’s interim ODI captain, to open the batting ahead of Haseeb Hameed.
Buttler was immediately into his work, carving his first and third balls from Steven Finn for four through the off-side. After nine balls, he had 24.
But Buttler departed with all 26 Lancashire runs to his name. From there, Jones, 20, and Hameed, 19, dropped anchor.