One of the most thrilling climaxes to an English County Championship saw Middlesex prevail in a three-way fight for the title on the final day of the season, denying Australian Jason Gillespie a third straight crown to end his spell as Yorkshire coach.
Toby Roland-Jones completed a hat trick to clinch Middlesex a 61-run victory over Yorkshire in a winner-takes-all match at Lord’s on Friday. Set 240 to win off 40 overs following a Middlesex declaration, Yorkshire was dismissed for 178 off 35.2 overs as late-afternoon shadows fell at the Home of Cricket.
Middlesex finished the 16-game season unbeaten and became English champions for the first time since 1993. Somerset would have won a first title in its history had the Middlesex-Yorkshire game finished as a draw, and all three possible results were realistically on with half an hour left at Lord’s.
Having seen their team clinch victory in its final game on Thursday, Somerset’s supporters watched from the County Ground in Taunton as their title rivals conspired to ensure the championship would likely be decided at Lord’s.
“We bounced some ideas around about what’s a reasonable chase,” Gillespie said, about the negotiations between Middlesex and Yorkshire regarding the size of Yorkshire’s final-day target. “There was toing and froing, all sorts of numbers being thrown around there … It was a fantastic afternoon of cricket.”
Gillespie is returning Down Under to be with his family and continue his coaching role at Adelaide Strikers in Australia’s Big Bash.
The former Australia paceman took over as Yorkshire coach in 2011, leading the team out of the second division and to back-to-back English titles to extend its national-record haul to 33.
He came within a whisker of a third, only for Roland-Jones to finish Yorkshire with three wickets from his final three balls, completing his 10-wicket haul in the process.
“I think I’ve lost about three years of my life,” said Middlesex director of cricket Angus Fraser, a former England bowler who was in the last Middlesex team to win the county championship title.