Video: Champions - Culture of honesty helps drive Yorkshire to success
ALL the talk at Yorkshire at the end of 2014 was of the club creating a dynasty of success.
The summer of 2015 proved that the talk was not cheap and that Yorkshire’s objective is now being accomplished.
A second successive Championship title highlighted that actions speak louder than words.
It was, statistically, even more emphatic than the previous year’s title; Yorkshire won 11 of their 16 games and gained 286 points, both records since the competition was split into two divisions 15 years ago.
It was a different sort of triumph to 2014. Last year, Yorkshire rarely found themselves in peril and handed out some thumping beatings. This year, they handed out some thumping beatings too, but not always when you expected them.
The fixtures against Durham illustrate the fact.
At Chester-le-Street, Yorkshire were 191-6 at the start of the match.
But Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan added an unbroken 366 for the seventh-wicket – a record for that wicket in county cricket – and Yorkshire went on to win by an innings.
At Scarborough, Yorkshire were 95-9 on the first day only to rally to 162 all-out through Bresnan and Ryan Sidebottom.
During that last-wicket stand, the momentum of the contest changed and Durham were dismissed for 156.
That game at North Marine Road also provided another example.
In their second innings, Yorkshire slipped to 79-5, a lead of 85.
But Glenn Maxwell and Adil Rashid added 248 for the sixth-wicket, and Yorkshire went on to win a previously low-scoring match by 183 runs.
Always, or so it seemed, Yorkshire found someone to stand up when needed – often when the top-order batsmen had failed to produce.
The team’s inconsistency with the bat was a frustration – not least to coach Jason Gillespie, who referred to it regularly in media interviews and who admitted, even going into the closing weeks of the campaign, that Yorkshire were still seeking “the perfect performance”.
If that was an alarming admission for the rest of the division, with no side seriously threatening Yorkshire’s supremacy, it also highlighted something else about Yorkshire and Gillespie too – namely, the culture of honesty that exists at the club.
Throughout the year, there was no attempt to fudge the fact that the team did not always play to their optimum, a reality which seems faintly ridiculous given the records that came Yorkshire’s way.
But although everyone chipped in, the reason why Yorkshire won the title again effectively boiled down to two key factors.
First, in Bairstow, they had the country’s standout batsman by a distance, a man who produced some remarkable innings to keep them in contention or take them out of sight.
And, second, they had four bowlers – Jack Brooks, Steve Patterson, Ryan Sidebottom and Bresnan – who each took over 40 wickets, a testament to their talent, consistency and also their fitness, which reflected the skill with which they were managed.
Bairstow hit 1,108 runs in nine matches at an average of 92.33, the best average by a Yorkshire batsman since Geoffrey Boycott scored 1,160 runs at 116 in 1979.
But it was not just the volume of Bairstow’s runs but the manner in which he made them that caught the eye.
The way that he kept Yorkshire in the game against Middlesex at Headingley, for example, when he smashed an unbeaten 125 out of 229 after Middlesex scored 212 in their first innings, was just one example of his influence.
Bairstow changed the tempo of games and ended the summer back in the Test team.
Had it not been for Bairstow, Yorkshire’s player of the year might well have been Bresnan.
A return of 849 runs at 49.94 and 45 wickets at 30.88 spoke volumes for his contribution, and he played a key role in the side’s success.
But with everyone playing their part at some point, and with young batsman Jack Leaning having an excellent first half of the season, it was a true team effort from first to last, with Yorkshire using 21 players in total due to injuries/international calls.
That team effort was exemplified by the way that veteran spinner James Middlebrook rose to the challenge after being plucked out of club cricket to stand in for Adil Rashid when the leg-spinner was on international duty, Middlebrook taking 17 wickets at 25.
Yorkshire, in fact, had so many players called up by England that it was almost easier to count up those who were not whisked away.
They started the season with six players out in the West Indies – the most ever contributed by one county to an England Test tour – and captain Andrew Gale missing through suspension.
But they coped so well – and managed their resources so expertly – that coach Gillespie admitted that he was slightly disappointed that Yorkshire began the season with two wins and two draws from the opening four games.
That summed up the standards of Yorkshire cricket.
The most heartening thing for Yorkshire – and the most horrifying thing for their rivals – is that they can improve.
They won the Championship this time without a consistently successful opening partnership after Adam Lyth was selected by England and Alex Lees struggled to repeat his heroics of 2014.
Last year, Lyth and Lees averaged 70-plus for the first-wicket and were the club’s first and second-highest run-scorers respectively.
Yorkshire missed the consistent platforms they had provided.
The signing of all-rounder David Willey will create extra competition for places next year, as well as cover for Test call-ups.
Willey, though, may have to bide his time before he wins a place in the Championship team.
If Yorkshire can afford to leave out Brooks and Patterson, which they did at various stages due to a surfeit of bowling riches, there will be plenty more of what the coaches call “rotation”.
Willey’s primary role – at least in the short term – will be to help improve Yorkshire’s one-day cricket.
Although the club reached the semi-finals of the Royal London Cup, they struggled again in the T20 Blast, a format in which Willey has a proven track record.
Yorkshire finished second-bottom of the North Group after eight defeats in 14 games, and, despite having the services of Maxwell and Aaron Finch at various stages, they were rarely at the races in the game’s shortest form.
Maxwell shone towards the end of his time with the club, but, prior to that, the so-called “Big Show” had been more of a “No-Show” before impressively turning his season around.
Yorkshire’s second successive Championship was special for all the players but none more so, perhaps, than for Gale.
After the unsavoury events of last year, when he was banned from lifting the trophy by the England and Wales Cricket Board amid baseless suggestions that he had racially abused the Lancashire batsman Ashwell Prince, Gale showed genuine leadership to put that chapter behind him.
The captain also boosted his authority by finishing second to Bairstow in the run-scoring charts with 1,006 at 40.24, and the title was as much a triumph for Gale as it was a collective one for his team.
Gale described reaching 1,000 runs this year and lifting the trophy as “a fairytale season”, which summed up Yorkshire’s campaign full stop.