It was a mixture of joy and relief for Yorkshire as they celebrated victory over Derbyshire in the LV= Insurance County Championship at Chesterfield this lunchtime.
Seventeen matches have come and gone since the last four-day, win against Gloucestershire at Bristol in the opening game of 2022.
It was Ottis Gibson’s first game in charge as coach, and captain Shan Masood had only just made his debut for Derbyshire. But both men were well aware of the importance of this moment for this current group of Yorkshire players.
“It feels great to win a game,” said Gibson. “I feel like it’s been a long time coming, but winning is hard.
“We’re a developing team, and sometimes we’ve put ourselves in winning situations this year and not been able to get over the line. But it was nice to have Shan’s experience at the end, which made all the difference.”
This was a fabulous game of Championship cricket, but one Yorkshire should have had wrapped up much earlier than just before midday on day four.
Derbyshire were bowled out for 111 in the first innings before Yorkshire responded with 353. The hosts then slipped to 17-4 second time around, still trailing by 225. But centuries from Leus du Plooy and Haider Ali turned the tide and set Yorkshire 212 to win.
The visitors started day four on 147-6, slipping to 147-7 when Dawid Malan fell to the day’s first ball from nine-wicket left-arm spinner Mark Watt.
Thankfully, though, Masood made a superb unbeaten 95 and found a partner in Dom Bess, who contributed a run-a-ball 41 not out and hit the winning runs to ensure a 22-point haul.
Gibson continued: “This morning, we said, ‘One partnership finishes the game’. Mala got a hundred in the first innings and is arguably our best player. To get out first ball, the nerves start again.
“But credit to Bessy. He didn’t have the best game with the ball. But he went in in a situation like that with Shan and got the partnership we needed.
“The good thing about being an all-rounder is that if you don’t get wickets, you can still make runs.
“The way he played, he was positive, and he showed a lot of character.”
So where did Yorkshire win (and nearly lose) this game?
“Jeez, where do I start?” smiled Gibson.
“To bowl a team out for 111, that’s, ‘Well done’. With the bat, Mala got a hundred, but we could have made more runs and batted them out of the game.
“Then, leading by 240 and having them 17-4, the next 12 overs went for 90.
“Du Plooy and their overseas played well and built a nice partnership. But we didn’t bowl particularly well. We pulled it back nicely yesterday with the ball before chasing 200.
“You feel like we should have won it easier, but it’s a symptom of where we are as a team. We get ourselves in winning positions and we’re not able to grab hold of them and have a really comfortable win. But we’ll take this win any way.
“It was 17 matches without a win in the Championship. But in those 17, we’ve played some good cricket and haven’t been able to get over the line.
“There’s a lot of joy, and hopefully this win is validation for the work we’ve been doing and we can take it forwards into the next game in a couple of weeks.”
Masood has only had a taste of the recent frustrations in Championship cricket. But he was just as delighted as his team-mates and coaches, this being his first Championship win as Yorkshire captain to add to five in a row in the Vitality Blast.
“I’m going to sound like a broken record here,” he said. “The first win is always the hardest.
“We could be sat here on four wins this season. We were close at Sussex, Durham away and Leicestershire at home, and that would have put us where we want to be.
“The cricket we’ve played, we could have easily won four games, and that’s heartening for the side going forward.
“When we debriefed in the dressing room, we spoke about whenever we face adversity or the tough battles, we’ve always done well. But it’s when things get easier that we take the pedal off the gas.
“We’re doing the hard things that good teams do. But when things become easier, that’s when we need to continue the process and be ruthless. We weren’t here.
“Fortunately we did some good things over a long period of time in the first two days to allow us to make mistakes but still have opportunities in the game.
“We carried some of the momentum from the T20s. Once you get a side out for 100 and put 350 on the board in the first innings, 80 percent of the time you’re bound to win that game.
“Nobody is going to give it to you, and you have to give Derby credit.
“Once you get the first win on the board, hopefully you can carry all the good things you’ve been doing forwards.”
Of course, this win was even more significant for Masood given it was against his former county, and he contributed heavily with scores of 67 and 95 not out.
“It was nice to see everyone and get good reactions from everyone,” he said.
“I owe a lot to Derbyshire. I’ll always miss the club with the way they treated me and the way I developed as a player there. But I’m very happy with where I am at Yorkshire and very happy how I’ve been looked after.
“It was emotional in a good way, and when you put in some good performances it makes it even better.”
And, having praised his former county, he praised his current team-mates. He went through a long list of names, including the man he shared an unbroken 68 with this morning.
“I’d like to commend Dom,” he added. “He didn’t have the best day two, but he was very important on day three. He minimised the score and the lead for us. He held an end, and he realised he had something to do with the bat as well.”
Meanwhile, coach Gibson is hopeful Malan will be fit to face Leicestershire at Headingley on Friday evening in the Blast having suffered a groin injury here at Chesterfield.
He didn’t field in Derbyshire’s second innings and was sent for a scan before batting in the second. That scan has come back all clear.