YORKSHIRE planted one foot firmly in the County Championship First Division with an eight-wicket victory against Glamorgan and then immediately set their sights on winning the title in their final match of the season against Essex.
The club’s second successive Championship victory – achieved with more than a day to spare in the Headingley sunshine – cemented their hold on the second and final promotion place and took their points tally to 172 from 15 games.
With Kent in charge against leaders Derbyshire, who are 30-1 chasing 404 going into the final day at Canterbury, Yorkshire will tonight be one point off the top should Derbyshire lose and only four points behind should Derbyshire draw.
Although a Kent win would see them close to within five points of Yorkshire in third, the White Rose are well-placed to bloom one year after suffering the pain of relegation.
Yorkshire, who went into this game on the back of a vital victory against Gloucestershire last Friday, play Essex in their final fixture at Chelmsford, starting on Tuesday.
Derbyshire have the most difficult finale on paper, entertaining fourth-placed Hampshire, who are 73-3 in pursuit of an unlikely 427 to beat Essex at Southampton.
Kent face Glamorgan at Cardiff next week – a match which, on the evidence of the last three days here, you would expect them to win if the weather holds.
But if Kent lose to Derbyshire today, and assuming Hampshire do not pull off an amazing win against Essex, Yorkshire may drop behind in the title race but would need only three points at Chelmsford to clinch promotion.
The likelihood is that they will require a few more than that but, as Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale admitted, promotion is very much in Yorkshire’s hands.
“The ball is in our court now and you’d probably say we’re the form team going into the last week of the season,” said Gale.
“Two wins on the bounce has given us a great chance and, ideally, we still want to get promoted as champions.
“That’s what we set out to do at the start of the season – to win the Second Division outright.
“We’ll be going to Essex next week and trying our utmost to do just that.”
Glamorgan’s position looked unpromising when they began day three on 27-2, 45 behind.
Will Bragg, who had struck a splendid 92 in the first innings, was still there on 14, while Stewart Walters was unbeaten on five.
But after lifting their total to 45, Glamorgan were effectively undone by the loss of three wickets for one run in 20 balls.
The catalyst was Moin Ashraf, who sent Bragg’s leg stump cart-wheeling out of the ground before having Walters caught behind by Andy Hodd, who yesterday agreed a two-year contract after impressing on a one-month loan deal from Sussex.
Ashraf, who had gone wicket-less in the first innings, was highly impressive – as was Steve Patterson, who completed the mini-collapse by having David Lloyd caught by the redoubtable Hodd.
Lloyd, a 20-year-old right-hander from Flintshire, thus suffered the ignominy of recording a pair on his first-class debut – the first Glamorgan player to endure that fate since Tyrone Powell against the West Indians at Swansea in 1976.
Ben Wright and Jim Allenby bandaged the wounds a touch with a sixth-wicket stand of 55 in 14 overs, ended when Wright was lbw to Anthony McGrath just before lunch.
But Allenby fell soon after the break, bowled by Ashraf for 48 from 64 balls with eight fours, and when Ryan Sidebottom had Mark Wallace lbw and then caught Dean Cosker at mid-off off Patterson, Glamorgan were reeling on 149-9.
Graham Wagg and Huw Waters – the latter batting with a runner after injuring his ankle crashing into advertising hoardings while fielding on day two – threw caution to the wind, adding 33 in six overs before Wagg was caught behind off Azeem Rafiq for 36 from 31 deliveries.
Patterson finished with 4-47 to go with 4-49 in the first innings, while Ashraf returned 3-42.
Glamorgan’s final total of 182 left Yorkshire to make 111 for their first Championship win at Headingley since the final game of last summer, when they beat Somerset by six wickets.
They were helped home by Adam Lyth, who scored a sparkling 50 from 60 balls with nine fours before falling lbw trying to reverse-sweep Cosker. The other wicket was that of Joe Root, lbw to John Glover for 11, but Phil Jaques (28) and Gary Ballance (19) completed the formalities as Yorkshire moved to within touching distance of the coveted prize.
Warwickshire clinched the County Championship title yesterday with victory by an innings and 202 runs against Worcestershire at New Road.
It was Warwickshire’s seventh Championship and their first since 2004.