Yorkshire needed only 48 minutes here yesterday to complete their four-wicket victory over Durham – surely now the outgoing County Champions – that keeps them within six points of Nottinghamshire in the race for the 2010 title.
Central to the finishing of the job, fittingly, was their young captain, Andrew Gale, whose 74-ball, unbeaten 70 was the innings that effectively saw them over the line after a couple of scares in the shape of two wickets after the last day began with a further 54 needed to win.
Adil Rashid made the winning hit, driving Chris Rushworth for an easy single. Gale whooped and punched the air as he advanced down the pitch from the bowler's end.
At 26, Gale is Yorkshire's youngest captain since 1933 and he admits that challenging for the title in his first year was not something he contemplated when he took over from Anthony McGrath. Yet, while Nottinghamshire have the advantage of four games to play against Yorkshire's three, Gale knows that his side's trip to Trent Bridge on 7 September offers an opportunity to negate that advantage.
"I feel that the pressure is on Nottinghamshire," Gale said last night. "They have the experience, they have spent the money on building a side. We are just a group of young players working as hard as we can.
"I did not think for a moment we would be in this position. At the start of the season, people had us down as relegation candidates.
"I knew we had the skill levels if they could be pointed in the right direction, but we are a long way from the finished article. But we have worked hard for six months and here we are now."
Two weeks ago, Nottinghamshire would have beaten Yorkshire at Headingley but for rain washing out the last session of the final day but Gale's players were not prepared to award their rivals even a moral victory lest it undermined their own self-belief and, despite fielding a bowling attack with barely 100 first-class games between them, they proved here that they have the stomach for psychological as well as physical battle.
Seven wickets for Ajmal Shahzad, five for Steve Patterson and – tellingly – four from Oliver Hannon-Dalby, who played only during the part of the match from which Tim Bresnan, England's Test bowling "cover", was absent, underlined that what Yorkshire's attack may lack in experience they make up for in quality. In the event, experience in the batting held the key here.
McGrath's unbeaten 124 in the first innings was critical to keeping Yorkshire in the match and Jacques Rudolph's 100 under pressure in the second innings made a target of 299 relatively straightforward in the end.
"McGrath's innings was the best I can remember from him and I've always said that Rudolph is one of the best batsmen to play for Yorkshire," Gale said. "It may come down to the match against Nottinghamshire in the end, but we have a game against Hampshire next week and we cannot look beyond that."Reuse content