IT WAS a day that summed up why Yorkshire have been the strongest side in County Championship cricket in recent years and why Somerset are facing a relegation fight.
Somehow, Yorkshire found a way to win a match that Somerset should certainly have won.
But from 231-6 chasing 262, having been 167-4 earlier on day four, they lost their nerve as Yorkshire dismissed them for 258, thus snatching victory by three runs to go second in Division One, six points behind leaders Essex.
For the umpteenth time in his distinguished career, Ryan Sidebottom was the hero, taking three of the last four wickets to add to five in the first innings.
Sidebottom had Lewis Gregory pushing to cover, a swinging Craig Overton caught behind, and Jack Leach lbw playing across the line to leave the home team 250-9.
The coup de grace was applied by Adam Lyth, whose part-time off-spin was preferred to the frontline spin twins Azeem Rafiq and Karl Carver in the vital closing stages, with Lyth having Jamie Overton caught by Carver at mid-wicket to seal the triumph as the fielders peeled away in celebration.
It was the second three-run victory in Yorkshire’s first-class history, after they beat Essex at Colchester in 1991.
They have also twice won by two runs and twice by one run, with first XI coach Andrew Gale summing up the tension felt at the County Ground yesterday.
“First, there was the Huddersfield Town penalty shoot-out two weeks ago, and now this,” quipped Gale, who watched his beloved Huddersfield win their Championship play-off final against Reading at Wembley.
“It’s certainly not good for the ticker, but I’m just so pleased that we got over the line.
“We showed great character and determination, and that’s exactly what you want to see from the team.
“When we’re up against it, we stick our chests out and fight hard, which is what we’ve done now for a number of years.”
Although Yorkshire’s victory was dramatic, it was by no means flawless, with the visitors to some extent getting out of jail.
Somerset gained a first innings lead of 22 after Yorkshire were bowled out for 202 in their first innings, and Yorkshire collapsed from 213-4 to 223-8 in their second innings before being dismissed for 283, which gave the hosts a chaseable target.
“It was an ugly win,” admitted Gale. “We weren’t at our best throughout.
“The batting has not been up to scratch for a while now, and I thought 200 all-out in our first innings was a poor effort really.
“But our bowling attack is so good that it keeps getting us back into games, and I thought Ryan, in particular, was outstanding.”
Following his five-wicket haul in the first innings, Sidebottom got the ball to reverse-swing in the closing stages yesterday to rip his way through the Somerset tail.
Yorkshire decided against taking the second new ball for exactly that reason, with Sidebottom getting the old ball to ‘talk’.
Despite the fact that it was a low-scoring affair, the pitch was no minefield. There were runs to be had even on day four, as Somerset proved in the early stages.
Resuming on 101-4, they experienced few alarms in the morning as Steven Davies and Adam Hose built on their overnight stand of 52.
Hose, a tall 24-year-old making his Championship debut, reached a fine half-century from 103 balls with six boundaries, the left-handed Davies following him to the landmark from 109 deliveries with as many boundaries.
The session was an hour and 20 minutes old when Yorkshire finally broke through, Carver tempting Hose to drive at a full delivery floated wide of off stump, which he hit to Peter Handscomb at short cover.
Hose’s departure for 68 left Somerset 167-5 and ended a stand of 118 with Davies in 39 overs, which had seemingly turned things Somerset’s way.
But when Yorkshire removed Davies 15 minutes before lunch, making the score 189-6, the match was once again back in the balance.
Davies, on 59, missed a rank long hop from Lyth that he tried to pull into the middle of next week, although the ball did keep rather low.
From 231-6, Somerset should have won, their lack of confidence all too clear as they still seek their first win in this year’s tournament.
Yorkshire, though, are brimming with the stuff; this was their second successive victory after a thumping 10-wicket thrashing of Lancashire last week.
“We’re at the right end of the table, but we’re not even at the halfway stage of the season yet,” said Gale.
“There’s a hell of a lot of cricket to be played, and it’s a tough division.
“We’re playing some decent cricket without playing great cricket, so there’s lots of areas we can improve as well. But this was a terrific win in the end, and a great game for the neutral.”