YORKSHIRE not so much took a giant step towards the County Championship with victory over Sussex at Scarborough yesterday as kept pace with their rivals on a nip-and-tuck day in the title race.
The leaders beat Sussex by nine wickets to extend their advantage at the top of the table to six points with three games to play.
Victory turned out to be vital with second-placed Nottinghamshire beating Northamptonshire by five wickets at Wantage Road and Warwickshire leapfrogging Somerset into third position with a 215-run win at Taunton.
After their next Championship match against Lancashire at Old Trafford beginning on August 31, Yorkshire head to Nottingham for what has the look of an increasingly pivotal fixture before concluding their season against Somerset at Headingley.
Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first-team coach, pronounced himself delighted with this win at the seaside, his team making light work of a target of 106 after dismissing Sussex for 230 after the visitors started day four on 98-4.
“We can’t control other results, we can only control our own, and this was a fantastic win by the boys,” said Gillespie.
“We just have to focus on ourselves, stick to the basics and be absolutely ruthless. If we win enough hours, win enough sessions, that will go a long way towards us getting over the line.
“To come back and win this game by nine wickets having been 5-2 in our first innings after putting the opposition into bat and them scoring 360-odd was really pleasing, and it shows there’s a lot of belief in the camp.”
A Yorkshire win seemed the likeliest result when play began 20 minutes late after morning rain.
That is not to say it was likely to be easy, and it was anything but as Luke Wright and Steffan Piolet, Sussex’s fifth-wicket pair, resumed a stand already worth 50. An overnight deficit of 27 was soon cleared, but not before Yorkshire had missed a chance to dismiss both men.
Tim Bresnan spilled Piolet on 15 off Jack Brooks, diving one-handed to his left at fourth slip, and Ryan Sidebottom failed to run-out Wright on 69 when Piolet pushed Bresnan to mid-on.
Wright recovered to cut Bresnan for four and then caress him to the cover-boundary in front of the Festival marquee.
Yorkshire also conceded a number of runs through the third-man area, Wright, in particular, working the ball through that vicinity with dexterous hands. Wright cover-drove Adil Rashid to the boundary to reach his century from 115 balls with 16 fours, his third hundred in the competition this year to go with four fifties.
Wright’s stand with Piolet was worth 127 in 36 overs when the latter fell for 32 in the penultimate over before lunch, Steve Patterson having him caught low down at third slip by Kane Williamson.
Leading by 50, Sussex lost their sixth wicket in the third over after lunch for no further addition Patterson trapping Ben Brown lbw for a 13-ball duck.
Bresnan returned to claim the crucial wicket of Wright, pinned lbw for 113 to leave Sussex 201-7 – effectively 76-7 with 54.2 overs remaining.
There was too much time left for Sussex to harbour serious hopes of batting out the draw, and the last three wickets fell in just under five overs.
James Tredwell top-edged an attempted pull off Bresnan to Sidebottom at mid-on, Lewis Hatchett pushed Rashid to Andrew Gale at silly mid-off, and Rashid bowled Steve Magoffin as he tried to mow the leg-spinner through mid-wicket.
With 39 overs to reach their target, Yorkshire had all the time needed before a crowd of around 2,200 on a sun-kissed afternoon.
After a watchful start as Yorkshire took tea on 18 after seven overs, Adam Lyth unfurled one of his trademark cover drives that Hatchett, the bowler, could only admire through gritted teeth as it singed the turf on its way to the popular bank.
Alex Lees punched the same bowler for four through mid-off as runs started to arrive at a fair old lick.
Lyth picked up the tempo with a straight six off Tredwell to the Peasholm Park end, Lees following up with two sixes off the same bowler over long-on.
Lees tried his luck once too often, skying Matthew Hobden to Hatchett at mid-off with the total on 88, but Lyth and Williamson saw Yorkshire home with 18.5 overs to spare.
Lyth finished unbeaten on 39 from 60 balls, while Williamson ended on 15. In a nail-biting title race, Gillespie’s men remain full value for their pole position.