YORKSHIRE first-team coach Andrew Gale wondered prior to the match whether Essex might “choke” under the pressure of leading the County Championship table.
Instead it was Yorkshire who were throttled at Scarborough in a result that effectively ended their own title challenge.
The home side lost by eight wickets with 23 overs left on day two, the club’s first two-day defeat since they went down by five wickets to Worcestershire at this ground in 2003.
Bill Mustoe, the outgoing Scarborough Cricket Club chairman, estimated that the early finish would hit to the tune of £20,000-£30,000, while local businesses were also left counting the cost after the 131st Festival comprised just 11 hours, 29 minutes’ playing time.
After Yorkshire fell to a defeat that kept them fourth in the table, 55 points behind Essex having played a game more, and only 38 points above the relegation zone, Gale admitted that Yorkshire could be pulled into the relegation picture unless they buck up their ideas in their final four matches.
“That could happen, but all I can say is that we want to get back to playing how we can do,” he said, with the 2014-15 champions having lost three of their last four Championship fixtures.
“We’re a good side, there’s no doubt about that, but we’ve got to start putting more runs on the board. The batting is coming to a head, and batting like we did (Yorkshire were dismissed for 113 and 150), you’re not going to win many games.
“September is going to be a big month for us, and all we can do is fight and get back to playing how we know we can play.”
The rarity of a two-day finish was always possible after a wicket-strewn opening day, which Essex had the better of.
Resuming on 188-8 in reply to Yorkshire’s 113, the visitors had moved to 231 when their final wicket fell after one hour’s play, Mohammad Amir (22) and Ryan ten Doeschate (88) the men dismissed.
Amir’s day began inauspiciously when he collided with Ryan Sidebottom after cover-driving the left-armer from the Trafalgar Square end.
As he turned for a second run, Amir accidentally ran into Sidebottom and injured his neck in the process, leading to a seven-minute delay while he underwent treatment.
Any hopes that Amir, who captured 5-18 in the first innings, might be incapacitated came to nothing as he picked himself up to cut Jack Brooks for four before Sidebottom had him caught behind.
Sidebottom, who received an ovation at the end of the match on his last appearance at Scarborough before he retires next month, sportingly gave Amir a consoling pat on the shoulder as he left the crease, the wicket ending Amir’s overnight stand with ten Doeschate, which had realised 52 inside 11 overs.
Ten Doeschate, who had resumed on 61 in sunny weather, cover-drove Brooks for four and then flashed him to the boundary over the slips.
He finally fell splicing Tim Bresnan to Brooks at short mid-on, the Essex captain facing 130 balls and striking 12 fours.
Ben Coad was the pick of the bowlers with 3-36, Brooks also taking three wickets and Bresnan and Sidebottom two apiece.
Faced with a deficit of 118, Yorkshire’s second innings began badly when they lost both openers in the first eight balls.
Adam Lyth shouldered arms to Jamie Porter and was lbw, and Alex Lees bagged a pair when he followed one from Amir and was caught behind.
Amir trapped Tom Kohler-Cadmore to leave Yorkshire 14-3, the hosts limping into lunch on 22-3.
Harry Brook managed nine in 68 minutes before pushing Porter to first slip, and Yorkshire tumbled to 33-5 when Amir had Bresnan held at second slip, the Yorkshire captain also bagging a pair as he suffered his fifth duck in 11 Championship innings this year.
The hosts slipped to 37-6 when Adil Rashid edged Amir to the wicketkeeper, and to 56-7 when Andrew Hodd played around one from Porter and was lbw.
Jack Leaning, who top-scored with a fighting 70, added 30 inside 11 overs with Brooks, who was adjudged caught at short-leg off Simon Harmer – the off-spinner’s 50th wicket of the season.
Coad battled gamely to share 45 with Leaning inside 11 overs before being held at second slip off Amir, who ended with career-best match figures of 10-72.
Porter rounded things off by having the defiant Leaning caught at long-on, the right-hander batting for 131 balls and striking five fours and three sixes.
Chasing 33, Essex wrapped things up soon after tea, although they lost Varun Chopra to a direct hit from square-leg by Brook after a contemplated single was belatedly rejected, and Nick Browne to a catch at mid-on by Sidebottom off Brooks.
As the 5,355 crowd slipped away, their annual pilgrimage to Scarborough cut short, perhaps the only Yorkshiremen who left the ground with a spring in their step were Chris Silverwood and Anthony McGrath, the coaches who have led Essex to six wins and three draws in nine games as the club chase their first title for 25 years.