Coach Jason Gillespie insisted that the race is not yet run, but it is difficult now to see the County Championship being prised from Yorkshire’s grasp. With five matches left to secure the defence of their 2014 title – one more than all their rivals – they ended the challenge of 2013 champions Durham with a victory inside three days to stretch their Division One lead to a daunting 50 points. They chose to stay in Scarborough an extra night to celebrate, and who could blame them?
The 183-run win gave Yorkshire a sixth straight victory, a sequence they last achieved 16 years ago. They extended it, moreover, with neither their leading run-scorer nor leading wicket-taker. Jonny Bairstow was away winning the Ashes with England, Jack Brooks resting an aching back.
Yet although the outcome was still in the balance until well into the second day after an extraordinary Friday saw 20 wickets fall, ultimately Yorkshire still had too many resources for a Durham side lacking the experience and influence of their captain, Paul Collingwood.
Centuries from Glenn Maxwell and leg-spinner Adil Rashid, respectively a first for Yorkshire and first of the season, turned the match in their side’s favour on Saturday afternoon in a run-a-ball sixth-wicket stand of 248. Yesterday, Rashid combined with his England partner Liam Plunkett – both retained in the Ashes squad for the final Test at The Oval – to complete the job with the ball.
Plunkett finished with four for 61, having bowled at speeds pushing 90mph, exploiting a pitch that offered bounce and carry to strike three critical blows just before and just after lunch. He had contributed to some high-quality cricket at the atmospheric North Marine Road ground, which drew almost 14,000 spectators over the three days.
The consolation for Durham – whose coach, Jon Lewis, conceded that Yorkshire are “too far ahead now realistically for us to catch” – was an impressive debut half-century from Jack Burnham, an 18-year-old right-handed batsman, who was dismissed by Plunkett for a duck in his maiden first-class innings on Friday, but took on the Championship’s best all-round attack with composure and confidence yesterday and was last man out as Durham, having required 447 to win, were dismissed for 263.
Gillespie could scarcely believe how his side had managed such a handsome victory, given that they had been 95 for nine in their first innings, 79 for five in the second, and staring at a two-day defeat.
“I’m not quite sure how we’ve done that,” he said. “To come away with a victory like this against a very strong Durham side is fantastic, and we have beaten them twice now.
“It is nice for people to talk about us as champions-elect and it is a wonderful position to be in, but we cannot be complacent and, being completely honest, we need to make some improvements, particularly from the top-order batting.
“Compared with last season, we have not hit the straps batting-wise but, having said that, it says a lot for the spirit and resilience in the squad that we keep finding ways to win.”Reuse content