Yorkshire CCC avoid finishing bottom after victory on final day at Headingley
Back in April, Leicestershire knocked off 389 in 87 overs to win by three wickets with seven balls left.
On Friday, Yorkshire pursued 360 in 70 overs to win by six wickets with 18 balls left, in the process achieving their third victory of the Championship season.
It was the fourth-biggest chase in their history and enough to take them off the foot of Division Two and to a second-bottom finish; without the 48-point penalty imposed because of the racism scandal, Yorkshire would have finished the season in third.
Every large successful run-chase has a hero or three, and this was no different.
Shan Masood was the main man, the Pakistani playing a captain’s innings of 123 from 131 balls with 15 fours, his 23rd first-class century and second for Yorkshire.
And there were fifties for James Wharton (89) and Adam Lyth (51), the latter passing 1,000 runs for the Championship season for the fourth time in his career – and for the first time by a Yorkshire player since he himself did so in 2016, along with his then opening partner, Alex Lees.
For Worcestershire, whose promotion back to Division One was confirmed earlier in the match, defeat was an irritation but neither here nor there in the grand scheme of things; it was to their credit, in fact, that they agreed with Yorkshire to set up a game as opposed to letting things drift on the season’s last day.
That some fun and games might be in the offing became clear when – after Worcestershire had added five runs in four overs to move to 23-2, a lead of 150 – the batsmen and fielders came together for a bit of a chinwag early on day four.
“Right, chaps, how are we going to go about this?” they seemed to be saying, the upshot being that Yorkshire brought on Wharton and Fin Bean to serve up declaration bowling, allowing the visitors to set up a target.
Bean, who purveyed an interesting mix of right-arm slows, had gone into the day also hoping to complete 1,000 runs for the season, not to concede them in one day, the impish thought that crossed the mind as a procession of pies was deliberately doled out – and not of the steak-and-kidney variety. Masood stationed men all around the boundary, as though the inner field was mined, and even then they often made no attempt to stop the ball, George Hill producing one comical moment in front of the pavilion at long-on when a theatrical dive was almost in a different time zone to the ball itself.
Amid the last-day-of-term feel, as if the teachers had given everyone permission to muck about, Jake Libby and Jack Haynes progressed to the easiest centuries of their careers, neither of which were celebrated nor, with a few exceptions among a small crowd, applauded.
When Haynes pulled Wharton for the only six of the innings, that was it and Worcestershire declared on 232-2 after 65 minutes’ play.
For the record, Haynes made 113 from 84 balls and Libby 109 from 89 deliveries, the pair adding 223 in 28.1 overs, Wharton conceding 108 from 9.1 overs and Bean 101 from 10.
When the serious stuff started, Lyth and Bean settled to the task of laying a foundation and to their personal quest for 1,000 runs.
Lyth needed 32 at the start of his innings and Bean 28, but Bean fell for 11 when he was caught and bowled by Dillon Pennington, the pace bowler getting down well in his follow-through.
Still, the 21-year-old Bean could reflect on a fine campaign: 983 runs at 46.80 and some excellent work in the slips to boot.
Lyth quietly punched the air when he reached 1,000, an achievement warmly applauded in the afternoon sunshine.
The left-hander went on to a 57-ball fifty before miscuing a drive off the left-arm spinner Josh Baker to mid-wicket, ending a stand of 88 with Masood.
The captain, who also reached fifty from 57 balls, then received excellent support from Wharton, before playing-on to Baker as he tried to improvise.
Wharton’s solitary first-team hundred had come against Worcestershire in the T20 Blast at Headingley in June, and he was naturally disappointed to fall just shy of a maiden one at first-class level, having added 164 with his captain.
In Baker’s next over, Masood picked out the man at deep mid-wicket. But Jonny Tattersall (44) and Hill (38) completed the job, sharing an unbroken 84 in fine style as Yorkshire signed off for another year.