Yorkshire’s title-winning campaign got off to an inauspicious start 166 days ago, with a drawn game against students from Leeds and Bradford Universities on April 1.
But Yorkshire showed they are certainly no fools in the months since, winning eight games and losing just one on their way to winning the ultimate club prize for the 32nd time (including one shared title, back in 1949).
The outpouring of emotion and elation which greeted the homecoming of the famous trophy, held aloft by Sheffield’s own Joe Root yesterday after an emphatic innings victory over title rivals Nottinghamshire, traces back to last season, when Yorkshire faltered at the final hurdles and ended up finishing second to Durham.
That near-miss provided the inspiration to do one better this time round, but the foundations were well and truly laid in 2011 - amid a wholly different backdrop of relegation to Division Two. Colin Graves, then the White Rose County’s chairman, launched an astonishing attack on the club’s players, branding them “a disgrace”.
“It’s down to the players who have been on the park - nobody else,” said Graves.
“The performances have been a disgrace; they have been unacceptable. The players need to take a long, hard look at themselves. In the past, they’ve blamed the pitch and said we can’t get a result pitch at Headingley. We’ve had result pitches but we kept losing on them. Don’t blame the pitch - it’s the fact they can’t play on it.”
Three years on, there were no such problems and, with captain Andrew Gale suspended for Yorkshire’s last two matches - and even banned from lifting the trophy - it was left to Sheffield Collegiate prodigy Root to captain the Tykes to glory at Trent Bridge.
The 23-year-old didn’t manage to mark his return from England glory with a good score - he was inexplicably given out lbw by umpire Martin Saggers in Yorkshire’s one and only innings - but he showed his developing captaincy potential with inventive fields and effective bowling changes.
“Coming into this game, there was a lot of pressure on us,” the England star said.
“But we’ve played well all season, so we deserve it. We’ve consistently racked up big scores with Adam [Lyth] and Alex [Lees] in great form, and then our bowling attack has been formidable.
“A lot of the players have grown up together, which makes it even more special, and there’s enough talent in that dressing room to dominate for years to come.”
Yorkshire’s youth of 2014 celebrated their success long into the night but, perhaps fittingly, it was one of the old guard who helped set up the most important of wins. At 36 years of age, Ryan Sidebottom - who won the title with Yorkshire in 2001 before moving to Nottinghamshire and winning it twice more - has been there and seen it all. But his skill and determination levels remain as high as ever, and match figures of 9-65 saw him named man of the match.
And when he, fittingly, dismissed James Taylor to win the game, and the title, he was one of ten players on the field to have progressed through Yorkshire’s famed academy. Only 64-wicket seamer Jack Brooks was brought in from outside the county walls, and their Academy side won their first Yorkshire League title this term - with Collegiate’s Eliot Callis in good form.
Their talent pool may need to run deep in the coming seasons, too, with the likes of Lyth, Lees and Brooks likely to join Root, Ballance and Liam Plunkett - as well as 81-wicket spinner Adil Rashid - in England’s thoughts.
As the old saying goes, a strong Yorkshire means a strong England.
It may yet ring true - because the White Rose is certainly blossoming.