|Specsavers County Championship Division One, Lord’s, day four|
|Middlesex 270 & 359-6 dec: Malan 116, Gubbins 93, Eskinazi 78*; Lees 2-51|
|Yorkshire 390 & 178: Bresnan 55; Roland-Jones 6-54, Murtagh 2-28, Finn 2-60|
|Middlesex (21 pts) beat Yorkshire (7 pts) by 61 runs|
Middlesex won the County Championship for the first time since 1993 when a Toby Roland-Jones hat-trick sealed a 61-run win over Yorkshire at Lord’s.
The result meant heartbreak for rivals Somerset, who needed the match to be drawn to take their first-ever title.
After Dawid Malan (116) and Nick Gubbins (93) put on 198, Middlesex made a contrived declaration on 359-6.
It left Yorkshire to score 240 off 40 overs for a third-successive title, but they were all out for 178 in the 36th.
A compelling final day ended in dramatic fashion as Roland-Jones had Azeem Rafiq caught behind hooking at the end of one over and then bowled Andrew Hodd and Ryan Sidebottom with the first two deliveries of his next to finish with 6-54 and match figures of 10-127.
Their third defeat of the summer left Yorkshire in third place in the final table.
- County Championship’s dramatic finale as it happened
- Middlesex captain Franklin stands by contrived declaration
- ‘It was horrible, an up-and-down rollercoaster’ – Somerset denied
Middlesex game plan unclear
The home side began the day on 81-2 and Malan and Gubbins appeared in no particular hurry as they batted through the morning until the latter was caught and bowled by Rafiq off a leading edge shortly before lunch.
At that stage they were only 81 runs ahead and after Malan reached his century off 203 balls, a strange interlude followed as Stevie Eskinazi took 27 balls to score his first run, with some spectators baffled by Middlesex’s tactical approach.
After only five overs with the new ball, however, Yorkshire turned to Adam Lyth and Alex Lees to provide some easy pickings and a rapid acceleration occurred as 120 came off the next 8.5 overs before the declaration.
Lees seemed embarrassed by the wickets of Malan and John Simpson (31), the former caught one-handed by Jack Brooks at square leg, and the innings came to an end when James Franklin (30) literally gave his away by soft-batting an unmissable return catch to Lyth, leaving Eskinazi on 78 not out.
Roland-Jones has final word
Seeking to emulate their Yorkshire counterparts that won the title three times in a row from 1966-68, the last team to do so, the White Rose county suffered an early setback when Lyth (13) edged Roland-Jones to first slip.
Lees (20) and David Willey (11) then fell to Tim Murtagh, but first-innings centurion Tim Bresnan did his best to revive their fading hopes with a 44-ball fifty, including two sixes.
When he was lbw to Roland-Jones for 55, they needed 87 off the final 10 overs and the task was beyond their lower order as the Middlesex paceman, included in an England Test squad earlier in the summer, took the Championship trophy back to the home of cricket with 28 balls remaining in the match.
Middlesex, who finished second to Yorkshire in 2015, have now won the title 11 times, and shared it on two further occasions.
Opinion – contrived declarations
BBC Radio London’s Kevin Hand: “A few negotiations happened very quickly, with Andrew Gale going off three times.
“Yorkshire felt that perhaps Middlesex would gamble before the new ball, lost wickets and then they could have gone through the rest with the new ball. It didn’t happen, so when the new ball became available, Yorkshire went to Middlesex and said ‘what do you want?’
“There is nothing controversial for me because this has always happened in cricket. I’m sure there will be annoyance, upset and anger at Taunton – but Somerset would have done the same thing.”
BBC Radio Leeds’ Dave Callaghan: “I understand why it happened and I’m not against it today because we wanted to see a wonderful end to this game, but on a personal level I don’t like it at all.
“These two teams have been terrific in this match and it was a means to an end and it set us up for a thrilling two and a half hours.
“All’s fair in love and war and Somerset have taken criticism for the quality of some of the pitches they have prepared in recent matches.”
Middlesex captain James Franklin: “I had a look at the cup after warm-ups and thought there was a slim chance but to be holding it is unbelievable.
“We’ve remained unbeaten and that was something we were very proud of going into this game.
“We just wanted to put a good show on. We were on the back foot for pretty much the whole game.
“To finally get over the line is testament to our group of players, our coaching staff, the belief – we just grew from last year and here we are holding the cup.”
Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie: “We’re obviously disappointed to lose a game of cricket and not have that opportunity to win the Championship.
“But it was really the only opportunity to chase a target so Gayley and James Franklin got together and set that up and it was just a case of we needed to go out there and score the runs.
“We needed someone to get a significant score – probably an 80-plus and some other contributions if we were going to be anywhere near.”