THE monkey is finally off Yorkshire’s back.
At the 10th time of asking, the club reached Finals Day for the first time with a 29-run win against Worcestershire.
It was a performance every bit as emphatic as those which had taken Yorkshire into the quarter-finals.
And it was one that sent a clear message to their rivals in Cardiff on August 25 that they will not be going there to make up the numbers.
Yorkshire will play Sussex in the semi-finals, with Hampshire and Somerset contesting the other game.
Victory would not only send Yorkshire into the final proper but confirm their place in the Champions League.
The finalists of the Twenty20 Cup, along with the world’s leading club sides and franchises, will compete for a £1.6m winner’s cheque in South Africa in October.
On the evidence of what we have seen so far, Yorkshire would be worthy opponents on the international stage.
The transformation in Yorkshire’s Twenty20 cricket from previous seasons, so evident in the group phase, was once more tangible at Headingley last night, where 8,000 saw them dispose of a Worcestershire team who, along with Derbyshire, are the only others never to reach a Finals Day.
In sultry conditions, with the Leeds ground choked by a blanket of cloud, Yorkshire scored 212-5 after winning the toss, their second-highest Twenty20 total behind the 213-7 made against the same opponents here two years ago.
Joe Root top-scored with 65 from 40 balls with 11 fours, while David Miller lashed 50 from 25 deliveries with four fours and three sixes.
Throw in a late cameo from Gary Ballance, who blazed an unbeaten 46 from 20 balls with five sixes and two fours, and Yorkshire’s total was an imposing one against opponents who went into the game as overwhelming underdogs.
To their credit, however, Worcestershire battled.
Whereas some teams would have crumbled beneath scoreboard pressure, they at least made a game of it, Phil Hughes leading the way with an unbeaten 80 from 53 deliveries.
James Cameron and Gareth Andrew hit quick-fire 20s, the former brilliantly caught by Miller when Root palmed the ball back from the long-on boundary, but the required-rate proved just too much.
Mitchell Starc was parsimony personified, capturing 3-24 from four overs, and was well supported by Moin Ashraf and Azeem Rafiq.
After proceedings began with a minute’s applause for Don Wilson, the former Yorkshire and England left-arm spin bowler who died last week, Yorkshire’s innings opened unconvincingly.
Phil Jaques was run out from the fourth ball when wicketkeeper Ben Scott fumbled a wide from Jack Shantry before recovering to beat Jaques’s attempt to regain his ground at the non-striker’s end.
Andrew Gale – back in the Twenty20 team after a hip injury – soon made up for the loss of his partner, finding his range with a number of booming drives and finding a highly-inventive accomplice in Root.
The pair added 59 runs in 38 balls before Gale perished to the final delivery of the seventh over, patting back a return catch to Daryl Mitchell who beat him in the flight with his medium pace.
Jonny Bairstow was also deceived by a Mitchell slower ball, which he thumped to long-on to leave Yorkshire 74-3 in the ninth over.
Matters would have deteriorated had Andrew been able to accept a difficult chance when Root, on 40, reverse-swept high to the fine-leg region, but the fielder could only get a despairing hand to the ball which, to add insult to injury, trickled to the rope.
Root reached his half-century from 36 balls before he was fourth out with the score on 126 in the 14th over, skying a return catch to Aneesh Kapil.
At 130-4 after 15 overs, Yorkshire’s innings had yet to fully show its hand, but Miller and Ballance launched an onslaught to which the Worcestershire team had no answer.
Miller struck Moeen Ali for six over mid-wicket and then deposited Shantry for maximums over long-on and long-off during an over that disappeared for 26.
The South African went to his half-century from 23 balls before perishing to the final ball of the 18th over, caught at long-on by Brett D’Oliveira off David Lucas.
Rich Pyrah emerged to strike his first ball for six over extra-cover off Andrew before the biggest fireworks were supplied by Ballance.
The left-hander hit four of the last five balls of the innings, bowled by Lucas, for leg-side sixes to effectively put the match out of Worcestershire’s reach.