AFTER THE early damage inflicted by the weather in this critical Championship season, points gained now may effectively be worth double come September. So Yorkshire's celebrations at making the most of a dry day in Leeds were especially gleeful after Gloucestershire were beaten by 81 runs with 10 overs to spare.
At the end of a miserable week across the whole country, Yorkshire's frustrations were limited to a 30-minute delay before play could start. A forecast of showers came to nothing as Darren Gough (4 for 27), Gavin Hamilton (3 for 33) and Ryan Sidebottom (2 for 34) demonstrated the strength of the county's pace-bowling resources even with Chris Silverwood and Paul Hutchison unavailable.
Gough will be lost to Yorkshire for up to two months because of the World Cup but the six wickets he took in this match may be as important as any in the season if his county can make the most of the platform they have helped to build. The fear of starting next season in the new second division is preying on many minds and while Yorkshire, third last season, probably need not worry about such things, they have other reasons to feel tense.
As if they needed reminding, the Championship pennant has not flown at Headingley for 31 years and the expectations attached to the present team must be weighing heavily by now. The current squad possess title quality but if their potential is not realised soon then the chance will have gone.
But so far, so good. Gloucestershire, fourth last season but no longer bolstered by Courtney Walsh, were outplayed. They conceded a lead of 113 on first innings, a deficit extended to 261 as Yorkshire reached 148 for 6 yesterday morning before David Byas declared just before lunch. That left 72 overs for his bowlers to execute his game plan.
He might have allowed more time but was wary of Gloucestershire's potential in the chase, especially if Kim Barnett were to give the likes of Matt Windows and Mark Alleyne a flying start. Barnett, whose appearance in a Gloucestershire sweater will take some getting used to, did his best to be a thorn in Yorkshire's side, but his departure for 36 was disappointing, falling as he did to a miscued cut.
In the meantime, Gloucestershire had lost Tim Hancock, lbw to a ball that kept low, and Dominic Hewson, who fell to a catch by White at second slip when Sidebottom surprised him with some extra bounce. White dismissed Alleyne in his second over with another ball that scuttled through and Ian Harvey gloved a pull to Wood at square-leg, leaving the responsibility on Windows to save his side.
In the event, Windows was supported ably by Snape, who batted beautifully for 48 off 51 balls. But a pitch of variable bounce was always liable to induce a false stroke. In time, Snape, tucked up, flicked to mid-wicket; Windows, trying to cut, carved to third man, both falling to Hamilton, whose match return comprised seven wickets as well as an unbeaten 81.
With those two gone in consecutive overs, Yorkshire needed only patience and for the light to hold. Jack Russell dug in but ultimately Michael Ball and Jonathan Lewis were removed in consecutive balls by Gough and Smith fell to a blinding slip catch by Byas.