White Rose are the only first-class county who have not won silverware since August 2002. Chris Waters charts their lean years.
WHEN Richard Blakey held aloft the old Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy at Lord’s on the final day of August 2002, little could he or anyone else connected with Yorkshire cricket have thought that it would draw an unwelcome line in the sand.
Yorkshire had just beaten Somerset by six wickets and, coming on the back of the 2001 County Championship success, it represented another timely addition to the Headingley trophy cabinet.
Some 12 years on, there have been no further additions to that cabinet – save for the odd glorified pre-season trophy, such as the Barbados Twenty20 Cup and the Pro Arch Trophy in Abu Dhabi.
Each of the other 17 first-class counties have won a domestic league or cup competition since then, with lowly Northamptonshire completing the set when they triumphed in last season’s Twenty20 Cup.
Sussex have won nine leagues or cups during that period, including three County Championships, while five other counties have won five pieces of silverware and three others have won four.
Even Derbyshire, who pipped Yorkshire to the 2012 Championship Second Division crown, have got their hands on a prize, although Yorkshire would probably have pipped them had the weather been kinder.
Nonetheless, for a club of Yorkshire’s size and stature, it almost goes without saying that the comparative lack of success is surprising.
It is why everyone at Headingley will be desperate to put matters right this year and to finally rediscover that winning feeling.
Of course, as anyone who followed the club will remember, Yorkshire’s 2002 C&G success – sealed courtesy of a brilliant unbeaten century by the Australian Matthew Elliott – concealed a multitude of woes.
In stark contrast to their one-day form, the club struggled badly in the Championship and were the first to be relegated one year after winning the title.
Financial problems were starting to mount, leading to the arrival of the so-called ‘Gang of Four’ management team – including current chairman Colin Graves and club director Robin Smith.
And, in the face of spiralling costs, the county embarked on the task of reinventing themselves on-and-off the pitch, with the emphasis perhaps naturally focused on off-field concerns.
Although the bankruptcy fears that had hovered over Headingley in 2002 had dissipated by the following year, the team narrowly failed in their quest to secure an immediate return to Division One of the Championship and were then relegated in the one-day league.
Further frustration followed in 2004 when, despite the talismanic return to the county of Championship-winning captain David Byas as director of cricket, Yorkshire suffered their worst season for 12 years and finished third-bottom of Division Two.
Respite came in the form of the club’s progress to the semi-finals of the C&G, but Yorkshire were blitzed at Bristol by eventual winners Gloucestershire, who cruised home on the back of a magnificent undefeated hundred by the New Zealander Craig Spearman.
Increasingly, or so it seemed, the acquisition of Headingley cricket ground to safeguard international cricket at Leeds became the club’s No1 objective – a fact that should not be overlooked in assessing why, over the past decade and more, they are rock-bottom of the silverware pile.
Although Championship promotion was finally achieved in 2005, when Yorkshire sneaked up in third place, the highlight of the year came at the very end when the club fulfilled their long-held ambition to buy the Headingley ground.
The England and Wales Cricket Board had insisted Yorkshire must own the ground by New Year’s Day 2006 – or else it would scrap the club’s 15-year staging agreement that guaranteed international cricket at Leeds until 2019.
With international cricket vital to the county’s finances, the club stumped up the necessary £12m in the nick of time – £9m of it through a loan from Leeds City Council.
It was the first time in their history that Yorkshire had owned their ground and, at long last, the club were masters of their own destiny.
The playing side, however, was far from settled and tensions never too far from the surface.
After Yorkshire narrowly avoided relegation again in 2006, star batsmen Darren Lehmann and Michael Lumb left the club, while Chris Adams turned his back on a contract as captain and manager as Yorkshire reprised their chaotic years of the Eighties.
Morale was lifted by the “dream ticket” partnership of Darren Gough and Martyn Moxon, who rejoined Yorkshire as captain and director of professional cricket respectively.
However, despite encouraging signs, the team once again finished sixth in the Championship and struggled to shine in the one-day competitions.
Yorkshire tunnelled out another great escape in the Championship in 2008, when their one-day form showed marked improvement, while 2009 was a disappointing year all-round as the side once more battled Championship relegation.
Under new captain Andrew Gale, Yorkshire prospered in 2010 and came within one batting collapse on the final day of the season of winning the Championship.
There was also a semi-final appearance in the one-day competition and the sense of a county that had rediscovered their mojo.
But 2011 was one of the worst years in the club’s history, with the team relegated in the Championship and ineffective in one-day cricket, leading to a major overhaul of the coaching staff at season’s end.
Enter Jason Gillespie…
The former Australia fast bowler, pictured top, was appointed first-team coach and struck up a fruitful partnership with Moxon as Yorkshire bounced back in the Championship at the first attempt.
The club also reached Twenty20 Finals Day for the first time, with their runners-up finish earning them a place in the international Champions League.
Success was backed up last summer by a runners-up finish in the Championship First Division, with Yorkshire playing some outstanding cricket at times and certainly their best cricket since they won the title in 2001, although their one-day form was again disappointing.
However, there would seem little doubt that Yorkshire are as well-equipped now as at any time since 2002 to finally win the silverware that they and their supporters so desperately crave.
How the other 17 first-class counties have fared since Yorkshire last won a trophy on August 31 2002.
9 - SUSSEX: 3 County Championships (2003, 2006, 2007); 1 County Championship Division Two title (2010); 3 One-Day League Division One titles (2005, 2008, 2009); 1 One-Day Cup (2006); 1 Twenty20 Cup (2009)
5 - DURHAM: 3 County Championships (2008, 2009, 2013); 1 One-Day League Division Two title (2007); 1 One-Day Cup (2007)
5 - ESSEX: 1 County Championship Division Two title (2002); 2 One-Day League Division One titles (2005, 2006); 1 One-Day League Division Two title (2008); 1 One-Day Cup (2008)
5 - HAMPSHIRE: 3 One-Day Cups (2005, 2009, 2012); 2 Twenty20 Cups (2010, 2012)
5 - SURREY: 1 County Championship (2002); 1 County Championship Division Two title (2006); 1 One-Day League Division One title (2003); 1 One-Day Cup (2011); 1 Twenty20 Cup (2003)
5 - WARWICKSHIRE: 2 County Championships (2004, 2012); 1 County Championship Division Two title (2008); 1 One-Day League Division Two title (2009); 1 One-Day Cup (2010)
4 - GLOUCESTERSHIRE: 2 One-Day League Division Two titles (2002, 2006); 2 One-Day Cups (2003, 2004)
4 - LANCASHIRE: 1 County Championship (2011); 2 County Championship Division Two titles (2005, 2013); 1 One-Day League Division Two title (2003)
4 - NOTTINGHAMSHIRE: 2 County Championships (2005, 2010); 1 County Championship Division Two title (2004); 1 One-Day Cup (2013)
3 - LEICESTERSHIRE: 3 Twenty20 Cups (2004, 2006, 2011)
3 - MIDDLESEX: 1 County Championship Division Two title (2011); 1 One-Day League Division Two title (2004); 1 Twenty20 Cup (2008)
2 - GLAMORGAN: 2 One-Day League Division One titles (2002, 2004)
2 - KENT: 1 County Championship Division Two title (2009); 1 Twenty20 Cup (2007)
2 - SOMERSET: 1 County Championship Division Two title (2007); 1 Twenty20 Cup (2005)
2 - WORCESTERSHIRE: 1 County Championship Division Two title (2003); 1 One-Day League Division One title (2007)
1 - DERBYSHIRE: 1 County Championship Division Two title (2012)
1 - NORTHAMPTONSHIRE: 1 Twenty20 Cup (2013)