CRICKET: Gale-force Champions Yorkshire look set to dominate for years to come

Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale lifts the County Championship trophy. PA

Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale lifts the County Championship trophy. PA

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It was a season built amongst backdrops of revenge and a thirst for success; England decimation and England ambitions; the enthusiasm of youth and the experience of age.

Any year, especially one which delivers a league title, will have its ups and downs. Yorkshire’s 2015 campaign was an especially remarkable one; they began the season without seven key players and hammered Worcestershire by ten wickets anyway.

They regained the title without losing a game, and Andrew Gale exercised a few personal demons by lifting the trophy at Lord’s, the home of cricket.

Gale, spurred on by his last-season suspension for a verbal altercation with Ashwell Prince which saw him banned from lifting the trophy 12 months earlier, scored 1,000 Championship runs for the season and was, fittingly, in the middle when news filtered through that Yorkshire were champions again.

There were just under 12 days of the season still remaining.

The Tykes surrendered their unbeaten status in that game, against Middlesex, but the records continued to tumble. No team in the history of two-division Championship cricket has scored as many points as Yorkshire. No team has ever won as many games.

In truth, no team could touch them; they finished 68 points clear of Middlesex in second. To put that into perspective - Middlesex finished 67 points ahead of bottom-placed Worcestershire.

As coach Jason Gillespie remarked after: Who does that?

Yorkshire, it seems, do that.

“Who thinks you can win it by 68 points? You’re happy to win it by one,” said the Australian coach, who has now led Yorkshire to a promotion, a second-placed finish and two titles since taking over.

Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale lifts the County Championship trophy. PA

Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale lifts the County Championship trophy. PA

“The boys are stoked for that and we’re delighted for them. We’ve played some wonderful cricket, and that points record is going to take some beating.

“I don’t mean to sound arrogant but it’s been a special summer with 11 wins. With the points we’ve tallied up, it’ll take a hell of a season to top that.”

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That special summer delivered the title on September 9, 2015, securing Yorkshire’s first back-to-back championships since the glory days of the 1960s. Up against Middlesex at Lord’s, they needed just five points to seal the championship and, inspired by wily veteran Ryan Sidebottom, they bowled the hosts out for 106 just after lunch.

We’ve played some wonderful cricket, and that points record is going to take some beating. I don’t mean to sound arrogant but it’s been a special summer with 11 wins. With the points we’ve tallied up, it’ll take a hell of a season to top that.

Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire coach

By 3.06pm, news filtered through that Notts had been bowled out for 204 by Durham.

The title was theirs.

Cue a punch of the air from Gale, a handshake with vice-skipper Alex Lees and then an assault on Middlesex’s bowling.

Celebration or frustration? Only Gale will know, but he was denied a fairytale century when he cut to slip for 98.

The day still ended with Gale sipping champagne in a Lord’s lecture theatre, flanked by Sidebottom and Gillespie.

“You never quite know how lads will come back after winning the first one and if they will rest on their laurels,” he said.

Yorkshire's title-winning celebrations. PA

Yorkshire's title-winning celebrations. PA

“But they still have ambitions of playing for England or carrying on playing for England. When you have ambitions like that, lads are not going to let up.

“There is massive determination to get the record wins and record points.

“It was disappointing to fall two short of the hundred, obviously, but it was still a ‘hairs on the back of your neck’ moment walking back to the pavilion and through the Long Room.

“It’s been a great day.”

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There have been many.

The first came on April 12, the first day of the County Championship season when Yorkshire travelled to newly-promoted Worcestershire to begin their title defence.

They did so without seven first-team stars - Adam Lyth, Liam Plunkett, Jonny Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Adil Rashid, Root and Gale - but, remarkably, won by ten wickets.

From there, they hardly looked back. Yes, there is room for improvement; their NatWest T20 Blast campaign again faltered, and they lost yet another one-day cup semi-final, this time to Gloucestershire.

But Yorkshire are dominating again. They won the title without defeat, before surrendering that record to Middlesex; they lifted the trophy with 11-and-a-half days of the season to spare, at the home of their nearest challengers for the second year in a row.

They will get better, too; David Willey joins from Northants, not only to strengthen Yorkshire’s one-day arm but to bolster his Test ambitions with England. Jack Brooks will take wickets by the bucketload in a bowling attack led by Sidebottom, and Lyth will have a point to prove following his England omission this winter.

Just as they did in the 1960s, Yorkshire want to dominate this decade. As Gale will tell you, this is just the start.

Dickie Bird and Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale. PA

Dickie Bird and Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale. PA

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