Lord’s delight as Rashid spins Gale’s heroes to top of the table
On this evidence, they are a bit like anyone who doubted Henry V before the aggro at Agincourt, Horatio Nelson before the trouble at Trafalgar, or Robert the Bruce before the bother at Bannockburn.
Victory by 10 wickets against Middlesex – Yorkshire’s first Championship win at Lord’s since 1987 – sent them top of the table at the season’s halfway stage and unequivocally confirmed their title credentials.
Much more of this and captain Andrew Gale will be joining the ranks of famous leaders himself – Yorkshire cricketing ones, of course, and a Championship-winning line stretching from Lord Hawke in 1890 to David Byas in 2001.
There is something about Gale that reminds one of Byas; tough and uncompromising, he is a Yorkshire captain to fit the popular imagination in the club’s 150th anniversary year.
On a day when that milestone was celebrated in York Minster with a service of thanksgiving, Gale’s men gathered at the cathedral of cricket to complete a victory that he himself did much to set up.
Gale’s top score of 103 in a first innings total of 390 enabled his subsequent decision to enforce the follow-on after Middlesex were ejected for 175.
After the home side went into the final day on 137-4, still 78 shy of making Yorkshire bat again, they were dismissed for 219 moments before lunch, Yorkshire completing the win at 1.02pm.
On a morning of milky white clouds and watery sunshine, and before a straggly crowd thick with Yorkshire allegiance, it seemed only a question of when, not if, Middlesex would fold.
Neil Dexter, the 28-year-old South African, and John Simpson, the 24-year-old Lancashire-born wicketkeeper, had played well the previous evening to add an unbroken 44 after Adil Rashid had ripped the heart from the top-order by taking three wickets.
But their fifth-wicket stand was promptly undone by Steve Patterson, who struck with the penultimate ball of the morning’s fourth over.
Bowling from the Nursery End, Patterson induced a fatal drive from Simpson to short mid-off, where Rich Pyrah accepted a straightforward catch.
In Patterson’s next over, he looked to have first innings top-scorer Gareth Berg plumb lbw before he had scored, only for umpire David Millns to reject the appeals.
It looked a bad decision, and goodness knows how Ryan Sidebottom would have reacted had he been the unfortunate bowler.
Sidebottom was typically impressive and he asked plenty of questions from the Pavilion End, and twice Dexter answered them by driving him away through the offside for four.
But the former England man had his revenge in his fifth over of the day, defeating Dexter with a magnificent yorker that sent the middle and leg stumps flying clean out the ground.
After a fine opening spell, Sidebottom was replaced by Liam Plunkett, who struck with his fifth ball to have Ollie Rayner lbw for a duck.
It left Middlesex 167-7 in the 59th over, their goose not quite cooked but fast gaining heat.
Berg, the 32-year-old South African, and James Harris, the 23-year-old pace bowler Yorkshire attempted to sign during the winter, played positively to add 42 inside 10 overs.
They carried Middlesex to within six runs of clearing the deficit when Patterson had Harris lbw for 14 having switched ends for his second spell of the day.
In the next over, bowled by Rashid, came the moment that just about summed up Middlesex’s performance.
Berg, having played well to make 38 to go with his first-innings effort of 54, slapped a wide half-volley to Pyrah at cover, a dismissal followed by a doleful trudge back to the pavilion.
Then, in Rashid’s next over, the innings was ended.
The leg-spinner tossed one up to last man Corey Collymore, who obligingly patted the ball straight back into his hands, Rashid finishing with a season’s best 5-78 to go with a contribution of 72 in the Yorkshire innings.
Left to make the small matter of five runs for victory, Yorkshire sealed the points when Adam Lyth stroked Joe Denly to the cover boundary next to the Mound Stand.
It was a clinical display, it was an emphatic display, it was a display eminently worthy of potential champions.
Yorkshire return to action tomorrow when they play Gloucestershire in the YB40 at Bristol (1.45pm start).
The visitors will be without Australian batsman Phil Jaques, who was unable to field in the latter stages of the Middlesex match due to a slight stomach strain.
Jaques will be assessed after the weekend but is expected to be fit for the Championship game against Surrey at Headingley, which starts on Friday.
Fellow batsman Gary Ballance, who missed the trip to Lord’s due to a virus, is also expected to be fit for that match.
Yorkshire’s 13-man squad for Bristol includes 23-year-old wicketkeeper Dan Hodgson but not, on this occasion, 15-year-old Matthew Fisher.
It is still predominantly a young side, however, with Yorkshire’s interest in the competition long since over.
Yorkshire (from): Gale, Coad, Gibson, Hodd, Hodgson, Lees, Lyth, Plunkett, Pyrah, Rashid, Rhodes, Sayers, Wardlaw.