IN the red corner, joy; in the blue corner, despair.
The emotions could not have been more different after the final match of the season yesterday.
For Yorkshire, the celebrations – which really began when they clinched the title on September 9 – continued as they paraded the Championship trophy in front of their home supporters.
For Sussex, the pain was palpable as defeat by 100 runs – allied to Hampshire’s win over Notts at Trent Bridge – relegated them to Division Two.
Yorkshire’s 11th victory of the season, achieved shortly before tea on the final day, set a new record for the most in a single campaign since the move to two divisions 15 years ago.
Their final total of 286 points was another record, smashing the previous best of 266 by Somerset in 2007, and Yorkshire finished 68 points clear of second-placed Middlesex, emphasising how much of a gulf existed between them and the chasing pack.
The 2,000 Yorkshire supporters present on a sunlit afternoon applauded warmly when club president Dickie Bird presented the trophy afterwards to captain Andrew Gale, the third time Gale had received it after the official presentation at Lord’s on September 12, followed by one for the benefit of the Sky cameras at the end of the previous match in Southampton.
This one was really as a thank-you to the Headingley crowd, which duly sent the players off on a short break to Spain with appreciative cheers ringing in their ears.
“It was a wonderful reception from the crowd and the boys thoroughly deserved it,” said first team coach Jason Gillespie.
“We’ve had fantastic support throughout the season, and a big thank-you to everyone who has followed the club.
“The boys are stoked to win the title again, and, as support staff, we’re delighted for them.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what they’ve achieved.”
Yorkshire’s intention to make this a record-breaking season was clear in the way they signed off in style.
Gillespie acknowledges it will take something special to eclipse their records.
“The points record is going to take some beating,” he said.
“It’s a special summer – 11 wins and the points we’ve totalled.
“You’d have to have a hell of a season to top it really.
“It’s been a collective effort by all the players as we’ve had people missing at various times,” he added.
The first issue to be determined yesterday was whether Yorkshire would bat on in their second innings or declare on their overnight 298-9.
They decided to bat on, aiming to extend an already imposing lead of 301 but one to which they fancied adding a few more runs.
They had added seven more when Tim Bresnan fell to the day’s ninth ball, the all-rounder skying Steve Magoffin to Lewis Hatchett at mid-on to depart for 55.
If left Bresnan with an aggregate of 849 Championship runs at 49.94, his best season with the bat.
Needing to survive 92 overs to draw, or else score 309 to win and preserve their Division One status, Sussex made a difficult start.
Ed Joyce fell to the opening ball of the fourth over when he somehow dragged a full toss from Jack Brooks into his stumps.
Brooks then pinned Chris Jordan lbw to leave Sussex 36-2, and when he had Matt Machan caught behind to leave them 39-3, the pace bowler had his 300th wicket in first-class cricket.
Bresnan, the pick of the attack, produced a fine spell from the Kirkstall Lane end just before lunch and was rewarded with the wickets of Chris Nash (bowled) and Luke Wright (caught behind), which left Sussex with a mountain to climb.
Michael Yardy and Ben Brown frustrated the hosts with a stand of 81 in 21 overs, but Yardy fell for 41 in his final first-class innings when he top-edged an attempted hook off Bresnan to first slip.
Yardy was applauded all the way back to the pavilion by the Yorkshire team in a touching gesture.
Adil Rashid had Brown caught off the full face of the bat at short-leg and then trapped Magoffin to leave Sussex 154-8.
Ashar Zaidi hit an entertaining 47 before being trapped lbw by Adam Lyth, and Rashid rounded things off by pinning Chris Liddle plumb in front.
Disappointment was afterwards etched across the face of Mark Robinson, the Sussex cricket manager and former Yorkshire pace bowler, but he showed dignity in defeat.
“The first thing to say is congratulations to Yorkshire on winning back-to-back titles, and also to Hampshire for staying up,” he said.
“In a nine-team division, one team – Yorkshire – have been outstanding, and there’s not been much between the other eight sides.
“This time, we’ve come up short and we’ll take it on the chin.
“Yorkshire are deservedly champions and the template now for every other club.”