We were staring down the barrel, admits Gale after Yorkshire complete Championship win to finish fourth
AS UNDERSTATEMENTS go, the words of Alan Richardson, the Worcestershire bowling coach, took some beating at stumps on day two.
“That last session, 203 runs and only two wickets, has slightly taken it away from us,” he reflected, after Yorkshire had rallied from 214-7 at tea in reply to Worcestershire’s own first innings total of 340 to reach 417-9 and a lead of 77.
Replace the words “slightly taken it away from us” with “pretty much banjaxed us”, and you would not be a million miles from the truth.
Indeed, a ninth-wicket stand of 171 between Gary Ballance and Jack Brooks inside 28 overs had completely transformed the complexion of the game, leaving Yorkshire odds-on to finish the season with a win at the First Division’s bottom club.
Sure enough, on a sun-kissed day three, Yorkshire duly wrapped up victory by seven wickets deep into the final session, Worcestershire falling to their fifth successive Championship defeat since beating Yorkshire by an innings at Scarborough last month.
After Yorkshire were eventually dismissed for 428 in their first innings yesterday, Gary Ballance top-edging a tentative pull off Ed Barnard to deep fine-leg to fall six runs short of a double hundred, Yorkshire dismissed for Worcestershire for 221 second time round, leaving them to chase 134.
Ballance followed up with 60 before holing out to deep mid-on, adding 77 for the third-wicket with Jack Leaning.
Yorkshire’s second win to go with two draws in their last four games sealed a strong end to the season that not only averted the threat of relegation, but also saw them finish fourth in the table for a second successive year.
“Four or five weeks ago, we were staring down the barrel, but we’ve shown a lot of character to finish in the fashion that we have done,” said first team coach Andrew Gale.
“To perform in the manner that we have, under immense pressure at times, was very pleasing, and I think we’ll get a lot of confidence from that going forward.
“It just shows what character and determination and team spirit and togetherness we’ve got in that dressing room, and I’m really proud of the boys.”
In initially overcast conditions, with a hint of autumn hanging in the air, Ballance started the day on 189 in pursuit of his third career double hundred and second for Yorkshire.
He straight drove pace bowler Dillon Pennington for four to the New Road end but got into a tangle with the ball from Barnard that dismissed him, almost helping it into deep fine-leg’s hands rather than playing the shot with conviction.
Ballance’s 194, made from 222 balls with 30 fours and one six, was the third-highest score of his career.
It left Yorkshire with a lead of 88, the hosts losing three wickets before that deficit was cleared around half-an-hour before lunch.
First, Daryl Mitchell followed an away-swinger from Jack Brooks and was caught behind, then Tom Fell edged Ben Coad high to Adam Lyth at second slip before Joe Clarke played-on driving at Steve Patterson, the Nottinghamshire-bound Clarke receiving grudging applause on his return to the pavilion.
Only Moeen Ali realistically stood between Yorkshire and their first maximum points win since May 2016, the England all-rounder deciding that attack was the best form of defence as he tore into the Yorkshire bowlers at every opportunity.
Tim Bresnan took the bulk of the punishment, Moeen depositing his first ball over fine-leg for six and following that with a flurry of fours.
Moeen reached his second half-century of the match from 55 balls (31 of those runs coming off Bresnan), but his departure to the third delivery after lunch - caught-and-bowled by Patterson - was the first of three wickets for no runs in seven balls, Coad having Alex Milton caught behind and Barnard taken at third slip.
Coad picked up his fourth wicket when Ben Twohig located mid-off, and Patterson bowled Ben Cox to leave the hosts 158-8, 70 ahead.
A ninth-wicket stand of 40 between Wayne Parnell and Josh Tongue briefly held up the visitors before Tongue edged Bresnan to first slip.
The innings ended when Bresnan bowled Pennington, leaving Parnell unbeaten on 58 from 62 balls with 10 fours.
As the players left the field, there was a nice touch as the Yorkshire coaches/non-playing squad members came to the boundary edge to form a guard of honour for the departing Brooks and Andrew Hodd, the latter having been on briefly as a substitute fielder.
* Tom Kohler-Cadmore is Yorkshire’s sole representative in the England Lions squad that will tour UAE in November/December to face Pakistan A in one Test, five ODIs and two T20s.