YORKSHIRE won the County Championship for the first time since 2001, but the gloss was taken off their celebrations when captain Andrew Gale was dramatically banned from lifting the trophy.
The England and Wales Cricket Board decided at the 11th hour to exclude Gale from the trophy presentation at Trent Bridge, where his team clinched the title with an innings win over nearest rivals Nottinghamshire.
In an extraordinary twist to Yorkshire’s 32nd Championship triumph, Gale was denied the chance to lift the cup after the ECB decided that a two-match suspension that prevented him from playing in the match also extended to denying him what should have been the happiest and proudest moment of his career.
Gale was banned for verbally abusing South African batsman Ashwell Prince in the recent County Championship game against Lancashire at Old Trafford, which triggered an automatic ban under the ECB’s disciplinary procedure.
It emerged last night, however, fully six hours after Yorkshire completed their triumph in Nottingham, that Gale faces the possibility of further action for his comments to Prince, with the ECB announcing they have made a formal complaint to the Cricket Discipline Commission (CDC) about the captain’s conduct.
“On receipt of this complaint the CDC has decided to convene a disciplinary panel hearing to consider the matter,” said the ECB in a statement.
“In these circumstances it was not felt appropriate for Mr Gale to be involved in today’s LV=CC Division One trophy presentation at Trent Bridge.”
It is unclear what action could be taken against Gale, who was forced to watch from the players’ balcony as acting captain Joe Root instead received the trophy from Yorkshire chairman Colin Graves, who is also deputy chairman of the ECB and, as such, found himself in an awkward position.
Graves effectively refused to comment. “I don’t want to get involved with all the behind-the-scenes bit,” he said.
“Andrew Gale is under a suspension notice from the ECB, so to present the trophy to somebody who’s under suspension was not the correct thing from the ECB point of view. That’s all I’d like to say on it, to be honest.
“It hasn’t been easy, but let’s pass on that one and move on.”
Gale, who took a full part in all the pre-play warm-ups over the four days, was unable to comment on the decision due to the ongoing legal process, but he did eventually lift the trophy once the official ceremony had ended.
The loudest cheer of the day was reserved for the 30-year-old when he finally joined his team-mates on the outfield in front of Yorkshire’s triumphant supporters.
Speaking generally about his disappointment, Gale said: “Of course I’m gutted not to take part in the game and lift the trophy with the boys, but they lifted the trophy, and that’s the main thing.
“It was mixed emotions. I wanted to be the one lifting the trophy, but it’s happened, we can’t dwell on it and the main thing is we lifted the trophy.
“Hopefully I’m lifting it next year because this is the start for Yorkshire cricket and this won’t be the only time I have an opportunity to lift the trophy.”
Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, admitted it had been a tough situation for Gale and the club in general.
Moxon said Yorkshire only found out the previous night when Graves received a telephone call from the ECB, and Gale was understood to have been distraught when the news was relayed.
“It’s been hard for him,” said Moxon. “It’s the moment he’s cherished, so for him not to be able to be out there to collect the trophy is very hard for him to take.
“We’re limited to what we can say at this moment in time, but the important thing is he’s captain of our team, and in history it will go down with him as captain when we won the Championship.
“Ultimately, that’s all that matters.”
Others, however, were not so constrained.
Michael Vaughan, the former England captain and Yorkshire batsman, described the ECB’s decision as “nothing short of disgraceful”, while Stuart Broad, the Nottinghamshire and England fast bowler, called it a “real shame”.
Even Piers Morgan, the journalist and television presenter, waded into the debate, tweeting: “Can you believe the ECB didn’t let @GaleyLad lift the County Championship trophy? Just utter twerps.”
Although the affair left a sour taste, with the ECB leaving themselves open to criticism whatever Gale might have done, Yorkshire’s triumph was richly deserved and celebrated long into the night.
Root called winning the title “a special feeling”, one that capped a magnificent summer personally, and graciously said his team-mates at Trent Bridge “captained themselves”.
Jason Gillespie, the first-team coach and multiple Ashes-winner with Australia, said it was “right up there” with everything he has experienced in the game and described Moxon as “one of the best leaders around”.
Success was also sweet financially, with the players sharing £374,000 in prize money and the club pocketing £158,100.
Emotional Moxon finally captures crown: Page 8.
Title triumph is just reward for Graves: Page 12.