THE portents were hardly favourable.
Yorkshire had lost 15 of their previous 18 one-day cup semi-finals.
They had lost 10 of their previous 13 one-day games against Gloucestershire.
They had not reached a Lord’s final since 2002.
Such statistics hardly gave cause for optimism, and so it proved as Gloucestershire prevailed by eight wickets to book their place in the final at Lord’s on September 19.
After being sent into bat in glorious sunshine, Yorkshire scored 263-9 from their 50 overs.
It was a competitive effort but fell some way short of expectations, with the hosts having been 159-2 in the 29th over and then 198-3 in the 36th, the foundation for a score of 300-plus.
Gloucestershire followed that fightback with the ball with a high-class chase, masterminded by captain Michael Klinger, who made 137, and Hamish Marshall, who hit 78, the pair adding a wonderful unbroken 177 for the third-wicket.
Gloucestershire will now play the winner of today’s semi-final at the Oval between Surrey and Notts.
Yorkshire’s total was built on a magnificent innings by Adam Lyth.
The left-hander made 96, his highest score since striking 107 against New Zealand in the Test match at Headingley in May.
Lyth endured a traumatic Ashes – he managed only 115 runs in the five Tests against Australia at an average of 12.77 – but this was the Lyth that Yorkshire fans know and love.
From the moment that he cracked David Payne to the cover boundary early in the piece, he was delightful to watch, Gloucestershire beginning badly when James Fuller bowled three wides in the opening over.
Lyth hit three boundaries in Fuller’s third over, the bowler conceding 28 from his first three before Klinger removed him from the firing line.
It barely seemed to matter, however, as Yorkshire – and Lyth in particular – continued to plunder apparently at will, Lyth and Alex Lees adding 50 for the first wicket in just 43 balls.
Such was Lyth’s dominance that Lees contributed only two runs to that milestone, with Yorkshire’s scoring rate so swift that Klinger must have wondered whether he made the right decision by inserting the hosts in hot weather more evocative of July than September.
It was a good batting pitch, and Lyth proved it by progressing to fifty from 41 balls with eight boundaries.
Lyth and Lees had lifted the score to 103 in the 18th over when Lees was first out, caught and bowled by Benny Howell.
Yorkshire fell to 127-2 in the 24th over when Jack Leaning went lbw to Howell for eight.
It marked an unhappy return for Leaning, who was dropped for last week’s County Championship game against Somerset, and who made 0 and 12 against the same side for the second team at Taunton Vale.
Lyth continued to make merry, however, and he hit the first six of the match when he lofted the left-arm spin of Jack Taylor over mid-wicket into the East Stand.
A second one-day career century seemed Lyth’s for the taking, but he fell agonisingly short when he top-edged a pull off Fuller to deep fine-leg, where Payne judged a good low catch.
Lyth was furious with himself as he left the field, having faced 88 balls and hit 11 boundaries in total, his departure leaving Yorkshire 159-2 with more than 20 overs left.
The sense that this was not going to be Gloucestershire’s day – subsequently dispelled in no uncertain fashion – intensified when Liam Norwell dropped Jonny Bairstow off his own bowling with the score 192-3 in the 34th over.
Bairstow, who had 34 to his name, and who was playing fluently, had started to walk off when a roar from the 7,000 crowd signalled that Norwell had spilled the simplest of chances as he simultaneously made to throw the ball up in celebration.
It had the air of a turning point, but, to Norwell’s credit, he atoned in his next over by trapping Bairstow lbw without further addition to the batsman’s score.
Yorkshire slipped to 208-5 in the 39th over when Will Rhodes lofted Taylor to long-off, where Fuller pocketed a simple catch.
Much now seemed to depend on Gary Ballance, but he popped back a return chance to Norwell as the hosts slipped to 226-6 in the 43rd. Yorkshire managed only 43 runs in the last 10 overs as Gloucestershire’s revival continued apace.
Tim Bresnan made a breezy 27 before driving Payne to Klinger at cover, and Rich Pyrah picked out the same fielder off Tom Smith. Steve Patterson was run-out off the final delivery as the innings ended so limply that Yorkshire did not manage a boundary in the last five overs, their score perhaps at least 60 runs shy of what it had looked likely to be.
Klinger, whose availability for the match had been in doubt after he returned briefly to Australia for family reasons, seemed more jet-propelled than jet-lagged as he gave Gloucestershire’s reply the perfect start.
Patterson was twice driven through the covers and then silkily caressed through mid-on as Klinger showed that the pitch remained true for batting.
Klinger and Chris Dent added 56 for the first wicket before Dent fell at the end of the ninth over, bowled by an excellent delivery from Matthew Fisher that angled back in.
Gloucestershire then slipped to 90-2 in the 19th when Gareth Roderick tamely lofted Rhodes to Leaning at mid-on. But Klinger and Marshall showed their experience in a stand full of quality and controlled aggression.
Klinger reached his 14th one-day hundred – and his third in his last four Royal London Cup innings – from 117 balls with nine fours and a six.
Marshall – dropped in the dying stages by Lees at mid-off off Pyrah – faced 75 balls and hit eight fours.