Yorkshire’s reign as County champions was ended with a hat trick of wickets on a thrilling final day of the season at Middlesex.
Toby Roland-Jones struck with three successive deliveries to end Yorkshire’s attempt to retain their County Championship title in agonising fashion.
The final session on the final day of an intriguing season was decided by a nail-biting limited overs-style run chase that ebbed and flowed and was ultimately settled by paceman Roland-Jones, who finished with six for 54 including the key wicket of Tim Bresnan.
Somerset watched aghast from the County Ground in Taunton as their title rivals conspired to ensure the winner of the domestic game’s most valued prize would likely be decided at Lord’s.
A dramatic final session was set up when Middlesex declared on 359 for six, setting the champions a target of 240 from 40 overs to retain their crown.
While the captains’ agreement offered the prospect of a result, Somerset could only watch on helpless, knowing the draw they needed to claim a first-ever Championship title having wrapped up victory over Nottinghamshire inside three days was now unlikely.
Roland-Jones, who returned figures of four for 73 from the first innings, dented Yorkshire’s early momentum when Adam Lyth was caught by Sam Robson in the slips for 13.
Two wickets from Tim Murtagh reduced the champions to 48 for three, Alex Lees snaffled by Nick Gubbins for 20 and David Willey departing for 11 after Steve Eskinazi showed judgement and athleticism to complete the catch while running backwards.
Yorkshire were wobbling and into these familiar surroundings stepped Bresnan, whose unbeaten 142 in the first innings rescued his county’s title challenge when they were on the brink at 53 for four.
Bresnan plundered a six but the pitch was offering little as the required run rate became ever larger and when Steven Finn drew an ambitious shot from Gary Ballance, Robson was underneath it to send the England man back for 30.
The arrival of Andrew Gale offered stability as the scoring picked up courtesy of some swashbuckling shots from Bresnan, who reached 55 before falling lbw to Roland-Jones.
The removal of Yorkshire’s talisman was critical and Middlesex were given renewed hope when Gale swung and missed at Roland-Jones as his wicket fell for 22.
A draw was still possible, keeping Somerset hopes alive, but when Azeem Rafiq skied a short ball from Roland-Jones to wicketkeeper John Simpson, the score read 175 for seven with six overs remaining.
The odds were stacked against Yorkshire and once Finn bowled Steven Patterson, the stage was set for Roland-Jones to secure his place in County Championship folklore.
Having dismissed Rafiq with the last ball of his previous over, the 28-year-old sent back Andy Hodd and Ryan Sidebottom with successive deliveries to complete his hat-trick and in the process seal the title for Middlesex, Yorkshire all out for 178.
Earlier, Yorkshire’s inability to dislodge opponents who started the final day on 81 for two resulted in declaration bowling as the rivals sought to bring the match to a decisive conclusion, thus denying Somerset.
Lyth was ordered to open the floodgates and his first over duly went for 22, but in the next Dawid Malan swiped a full toss to square leg to bring his innings to a close, an ill-fitting end to an otherwise superb 116.
Simpson followed Malan into the stands having made 31 off 10 balls after Alex Lees struck again, his bails sent flying as he mistimed his swing, but Eskinazi raced to 78 as he took advantage of the gifts before him.
When James Franklin went for 30, caught and bowled by Lyth, the declaration was made to usher in tea and the ensuing run-chase that ended in Middlesex celebrating by leaping en masse on to Roland-Jones.