Richard Sutcliffe: Yorkshire’s class clear to see on memorable day at Lord’s

IT could have been the effects of the sun that for an hour or so after lunch had been beating down on Lord’s.

MAGIC MOMENT: Yorkshire's players and staff congratulate each other at the moment it was confirmed they had retained their County Championship Division One title. Picture: PA.
MAGIC MOMENT: Yorkshire's players and staff congratulate each other at the moment it was confirmed they had retained their County Championship Division One title. Picture: PA.

Or, instead, it could have been the sense of light-headedness that comes with all but clinching back-to-back County Championships.

Either way, the sight of two dozen or so Yorkshiremen queueing up at the bar under the Grandstand between innings to part with the astronomical sum of £4.80 to secure a plastic glass of Foster’s was one that underlined just what success can do to folk whose usual retort to London prices is to utter an outraged, ‘How much?’

From a truly incredible opening over that saw Ryan Sidebottom roll back the years to claim three wickets through to last man Tim Murtagh’s stumps being uprooted by the ever-green left-armer, this was an occasion to make Yorkshire hearts sing.

That the actual moment when the title was secured came later in the afternoon at Trent Bridge as Nottinghamshire were dismissed well short of the 400 needed to keep Yorkshire waiting any longer mattered not a jot.

Hence why even Yorkshire purse-strings were loosened in the capital as supporters drank in another deserved success for Andrew Gale and his men.

Few of those who had headed south from the Broad Acres either on Tuesday or early yesterday morning had believed the clinching of the title would come so soon.

Of the nine wins claimed by the reigning champions in 2015, the four-wicket triumph at Headingley against Middlesex in June had been one in which Gale’s men had been tested to the full.

For several weeks, John Simpson’s men had also looked by far the most likely of the chasing pack to derail the victory charge.

Common consensus among the early arrivals at headquarters – regardless of whether sporting a tie emblazoned with the White Rose and destined for the pavilion or a sweatshirt and being destined for the cheap(ish) seats – suggested that the second day was the far more likely to bring the final act in a race that was almost run.

There were, as ever, a couple who veered more towards cockiness than confidence, as the steward on the North Gate entrance discovered when asked by one Tyke, ‘Are you lot going to be able to give us a game today or just roll over like everyone else?’

Another loudmouth could be heard telling the rather bemused serving staff during lunch how apt it was that ‘Yorkshire Tea’ was the brew on offer “rather than the rubbish you make down here”.

On the whole, though, the few hundred Yorkshire supporters present in St John’s Wood showed humility in the face of triumph to ensure it wasn’t just Gale and his side displaying class in front of their southern cousins.

And class is exactly what Yorkshire’s cricketers exuded on a day that will live long in the memory of those fortunate enough to be there.

Lord’s had something of an unfamiliar look, an eight-foot white fence having been erected in front of the soon-to-be-demolished Warner Stand.

It lent the 57-year-old structure – which will be replaced by 2017 – a rather forlorn look, despite having been full as recently as last Saturday when Australia eased to a comfortable one-day victory over England.

This, though, made little difference to either Sidebottom or Tim Bresnan as the pair underlined why no side has been able to live with the White Rose county this year.

When Middlesex’s own title hopes were finally ended via Murtagh becoming Sidebottom’s fifth victim of the day, the clock sitting underneath Old Father Time atop the Mound Stand showed 1.40pm.

All 11 Yorkshire players immediately formed a huddle on the square as even those in the stands whose allegiances lay with the home county rose to salute a worthy champion.

It would be another 90 minutes before the title was actually clinched, a Nottinghamshire resistance led by Luke Wright holding up not only Durham’s bowlers, but also the final push towards Yorkshire’s 33rd Championship.

But the big moment finally arrived seconds after Gale had pulled James Harris to the boundary, an impressive shot that drew deserved applause.

Moments later, a much louder ovation broke out to signal – via the power of radio and social media – that the title race was finally over thanks to Nottinghamshire’s last wicket having fallen. Out in the middle, the home players looked almost as bemused as they had earlier in the day when being shot out by the deadliest attack in the country.

For Gale and his men, the race was won.

And the huddle that had followed Murtagh’s dismissal was an appropriate symbol as any of the togetherness that has brought those back-to-back titles.

It was also enough to leave even a county’s folk not renowned for splashing the cash to think nothing of spending the best part of a fiver on a pint.

Cheers, Yorkshire. Here’s to more of the same next year.