JASON GILLESPIE last night said he was gutted for Andrew Gale “as a player, as a mate and as a leader” after the Yorkshire captain was dramatically banned for the last two games of the County Championship season with his side on the verge of winning the title.
The Yorkshire first-team coach said he was devastated for Gale after the 30-year-old was penalised under the England and Wales Cricket Board’s disciplinary code for verbally abusing Lancashire batsman Ashwell Prince.
Gale allegedly swore at Prince as the players left the field on the third evening at Old Trafford as he was upset with the South African’s apparent time-wasting as Lancashire battled to save the game.
Although Lancashire accepted an apology from Gale, umpires Steve Garratt and Steve O’Shaughnessy reported him for a Level Two breach of the code: using language or gesture that is obscene or of a serious insulting nature to another player, umpire, referee, team official or spectator.
As Gale had already been guilty of a Level Two breach earlier this summer, when he showed dissent at being given out by umpire Peter Willey during the Championship Roses game at Headingley, he received an automatic two-match ban under the ECB’s totting-up process.
Both breaches carried a six-point penalty, with the accumulation of nine or more penalty points in any two-year period resulting in suspension.
The ECB said last night they are also considering whether to take further action against Gale, although it is unclear what that might be.
Yorkshire have ruled out taking internal disciplinary action against the player over an incident which, to the naked eye, appeared to be six of one and half-a-dozen of the other, with Prince angrily waving his bat at Gale having allegedly chirped away himself at Yorkshire batsman Adam Lyth.
The episode cast a dark shadow over a superb innings victory by Yorkshire that sent them 26 points clear at the top with two games left, with only a maximum of 24 points on offer for a single victory.
Yorkshire will clinch the title next week if they win their penultimate game against second-placed Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, or if they draw that match and Nottinghamshire do not claim three more bonus points than Yorkshire manage.
Gillespie, who said he did not think Yorkshire could appeal the ECB’s decision, could be seen consoling Gale on the players’ balcony after the game when the captain first learned of his fate.
Gillespie described the incident with Prince as “something that happens in the heat of battle” and threw his full support behind the captain, who was unavailable for comment as his punishment sank in.
“I’m gutted for Galey as a player, as a mate and as a leader,” said Gillespie. “He lives and breathes our club and is as proud and passionate a Yorkshireman as you can get. Galey wears his heart on his sleeve and he’s a real scrapper and fighter.
“We’re devastated for him that he’s going to miss the last two games, and you can only feel desperately sorry for the bloke.”
Gillespie was diplomatic on the ECB’s ruling, which leaves Joe Root likely to captain Yorkshire at Trent Bridge and also in their final fixture against Somerset at Headingley, starting on September 23.
Root is set to return for the last two games along with fellow England batsman Gary Ballance, although England pace bowler Liam Plunkett will not play at Trent Bridge and may now miss the rest of the campaign as he continues his recovery from an ankle injury.
“The ECB have made their decision and it’s not for me to comment,” said Gillespie.
“We can’t control that and we just have to live with it. There were some heated exchanges throughout the game, and it was a full-on Roses battle.
“From Yorkshire’s point of view, the situation is done and dusted.”
Glen Chapple, the Lancashire captain, said Gale apologised to him and the matter was closed.
Gillespie believes Yorkshire owe Gale “a huge debt of gratitude” as they chase their first title since 2001, and their first silverware since 2002.
He cited Gale’s selfless decision to leave himself out of the Championship game against Middlesex at Lord’s earlier this season, when Root deputised, as an example of a leader who always puts his men first.
“He showed one of the most selfless acts in cricket when he left himself out at Lord’s,” said Gillespie.
“He did that because, at the time, it looked as though one of the opening batsmen, Adam Lyth or Alex Lees, would have to miss out to make way for Joe Root coming back into the side.
“Galey knew how important that opening partnership was going to be to us this season for us to challenge for a top-three spot.
“He didn’t want to break it up and they’ve repaid his faith ten-fold, and we’ve got a lot to be thankful to him for.”
Yesterday, leg-spinner Adil Rashid followed his first innings hundred with season’s-best figures of 5-117.
Rashid was outstanding after Lancashire began day four on 144-2, 188 behind, and was ably supported by Jack Brooks, who took 3-61.
Only Usman Khawaja looked capable of denying Yorkshire, the Australian scoring 117 before he was stumped off Rashid, who has taken 24 wickets in the last four Championship games.
Scorecard & table: Page 20.