ANDREW GALE turned up for training the other day to find a John Terry shirt hanging on his peg in the dressing room.
It had been left there by his team-mate and brother-in-law, Tim Bresnan, in recognition of the fact the Chelsea captain had famously lifted the 2012 European Cup despite being suspended for the final in Munich.
Gale is suspended for this game – and for the final fixture of the season against Somerset at Headingley – after receiving a ban for verbally abusing Lancashire’s Ashwell Prince.
But the Yorkshire captain will still lift the trophy – Terry-style – if Yorkshire win the Championship in Nottingham today.
Yorkshire go into the final day within champagne-tasting distance of their first title for 13 years after another dominant display by the banks of the Trent.
Nottinghamshire are 149-5 in their second innings, 180 behind, after Yorkshire enforced the follow-on once the home team were dismissed for 203 in reply to 532-9 declared.
With better luck – and better catching – it might have been all over last night as Yorkshire made early inroads into the Nottinghamshire batting for a second time.
Two wickets fell inside the first 11 balls, closely followed by two dropped catches that, if held, might have triggered an embarrassing collapse, but Nottinghamshire survived the 42 overs before stumps after starting their second innings at 2.25pm.
Ryan Sidebottom, the unfortunate bowler on both occasions, as Alex Hales was dropped at second slip by Adam Lyth and James Taylor shelled at third slip by Gary Ballance, acknowledged that Yorkshire are on the brink.
“It’s close,” said Sidebottom, the only surviving member of the last Yorkshire team to win the title before he won two with Nottinghamshire ahead of rejoining his native county for 2011.
“It’s been a great day, and although it’s a flattish wicket, scoreboard pressure has told at this moment in time. We’re close, but we don’t want to take anything for granted either.
“We just need to keep doing the things we’ve done and hopefully that will be that.”
Sidebottom, 36, has taken five wickets in the match so far to raise his season’s tally to 42 in the Championship at 18.64.
As those figures suggest, the magic shows no sign of abating.
“I’ve had a special career,” he said.
“I’ve achieved a lot more than I ever expected to myself, and coming back to Yorkshire has worked out great.
“Frog (Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket) sold me a little bit of a dream, saying we’ve got some young, talented players at the club who are improving year by year and are going to go from strength to strength, and I’ve just tried to pass on my knowledge and experience.
“I suppose it (the title) means more to me now because I’m coming to the twilight of my career; since I turned 30, I’m probably bowling as well as I’ve ever done, and I’d love to do two or three more years if I can.”
On another gorgeous day in Nottingham, with the stadium bathed in glorious sunshine, Yorkshire began well after the hosts resumed on 58-4 in their first innings, 474 behind.
Jack Brooks won a dubious lbw against Michael Lumb before Sidebottom angled one across Riki Wessels, who edged behind.
On the stroke of lunch, Luke Fletcher skied the spin of Adil Rashid to Brooks at cover and Jake Ball left a Rashid googly, to leave Nottinghamshire 126-8 and seemingly further away from the follow-on target than Trent Bridge is from Pluto.
That became 140-9 when Gary Keedy skied Rashid to short fine-leg, where Tim Bresnan snaffled a simple catch.
Chris Read and Harry Gurney frustrated Yorkshire with a last-wicket stand of 63, Read scoring 81 from 154 balls with 15 fours.
He deserved a century, but Gurney was wrongly adjudged lbw to Brooks as replays showed the ball was missing leg stump.
Trailing by 329, Nottinghamshire lost a wicket to the first ball of their second innings when Sidebottom had Steven Mullaney lbw, amid suspicions the ball had pitched outside leg.
Brooks had Lumb caught by Ballance at third slip before the two catches were shelved off Sidebottom.
Hales made 43 before driving back a return catch to Brooks, while a Samit Patel cameo was ended by a smart stumping by Jonny Bairstow, standing up to Steve Patterson, which Nottinghamshire claimed was questionable sportsmanship as the batsman lifted his trailing leg.
Yorkshire thought otherwise and although Taylor is still there on 56 with power to add, Sidebottom got rid of the dangerous Wessels, bowled through the gate.
It will take something special to deny Yorkshire now, a fact recognised by Mark Arthur, their chief executive.
Arthur has arranged for the office staff at Headingley to come down to Nottingham today in the hope of witnessing history in the making.
Nottinghamshire v Yorkshire scorecard: Page 24.