On a dramatic final day in the County Championship, Liam Norwell’s nine-wicket haul at Edgbaston left Yorkshire relegated after a disastrous year on and off the pitch.
Yorkshire’s 18-run loss to Gloucestershire at Headingley took their future out of their hands ahead of the final day of competition. They will be left ruing the small margins which have cost them victory on too many occasions this summer. Relegated for the first time in 10 years, the club must now look to the long-term and a rebuilding period, with so many of their key players moving on next season as well a new captain incoming in Shan Masood.
With ongoing problems off the field well documented, how Yorkshire got into this position is a mess of players, politics and misfortune.
The wrong side of close results
After winning their first game of the season against Gloucestershire in Bristol, Yorkshire finished the season without a Championship win since that fixture in April. The five draws which followed saw the start of their slide down the table. They failed to time their declaration against Northants leaving themselves without enough time to bowl the side out, and bad light prevented them from chasing 114 in 21 overs against Kent.
Yorkshire’s theme of getting themselves into winning positions and not taking their chances continued at into June. They were thwarted by two wickets at the Ageas Bowl as Hampshire chased down 198 and even more frustrating was a one-wicket loss to Essex after two batting collapses in the match. Their run of six losses in their last eight games is illustrative of the increasing rapidity with which their season went off the rails.
While the result against Gloucestershire in the final round of fixtures is the immediate focus, multiple other close encounters throughout the course of the season would have seen Yorkshire’s place in Division One safe next season if they had managed to come out on top.
Loss of key players
It can’t be ignored that Yorkshire were playing with a heavily depleted side this season. Continued injury problems for Matthew Fisher meant he could only play in two fixtures, his 11 wickets evidencing the impact he could have had with a more sustained run of matches. It has been the theme of Fisher’s first-class career so far. Hamstring and groin problems for Ben Coad compounded the bowling attack’s problems as he missed four months of competition. That left Steven Patterson and Jordan Thompson to share the load between them. With 37 and 42 wickets respectively, they held up their side’s chances well but were largely unsupported after Haris Rauf returned to Pakistan for international duty. George Hill’s improvements from last season went some way towards propping up the attack.
The biggest loss for Yorkshire however, was Harry Brook’s call-up to England which took him away from county cricket for the second half of the summer. Despite only playing eight of Yorkshire’s 14 games, Brook finished the season as their highest run scorer by a margin of over a hundred runs. While Yorkshire are no stranger to losing a substantial number of their squad to England, coupled with the loss of form and other absences of key players as well as the incredible form Brook was in at the start of the season, his loss was their biggest blow.
Alongside Brook’s loss, Gary Ballance’s absence was also felt heavily. With the former captain no longer in their squad, a source of reliable top-order runs was lost. Although Adam Lyth put in another solid season at the top of the order, Yorkshire’s batting line-up was too unstable for much of the season.
David Willey’s absence for the entirety of the Championship before his departure to Northants and Dom Bess’s difficulties in containing the scoring also contributed to the team falling below par.
With so many of the core of Yorkshire’s squad over the last few years departing at the end of the season including Paterson and Tom Kohler-Cadmore their depth is set to be tested further next year.
With Ottis Gibson taking over as head coach over the winter alongside Darren Gough as the new director of cricket, the extra scrutiny and continued controversy was never going to be a productive environment for delivering results. The focus continued to be on issues off the field throughout the summer, with rumours of a player rebellion and further internal changes at the county.
Disquiet amongst the players after sackings over the winter has contributed to high-profile fallouts with several players, including Willey. The low morale amongst the playing squad has been obvious as the infighting has continued.
In his first year as a head coach in Championship cricket, Gibson was dealt a difficult hand compounded by the relationship between club management and his players. It will be a huge job and long-term project if he is to rebuild a Yorkshire squad capable of what the county’s fans expect from them. The signing of Masood is a good start. The Pakistan batter was in brilliant form for Derbyshire this season, racking up over a thousand runs in eight appearances.
As disappointing as relegation is for Yorkshire, what went wrong is an amalgamation of so many different factors, the most important of which has little to do with the cricket they played. The end result is symptomatic of festering ill-feeling and will take more than a spell in Division Two and a revamped squad to fix.