Yorkshire have all but qualified for the LV= Insurance County Championship’s top group in August and September following a 53-run victory inside three days over fellow challengers Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.
The White Rose comfortably defended a target of 206 to move themselves to the cusp of the competition’s top group in August and September, bowling Northants out for 152. Dom Bess and Harry Brook were their stars.
Yorkshire will qualify by the end of the ongoing penultimate round, with a game to spare, should Glamorgan in fourth place in the Group Three fail to beat Sussex at Hove – something which is far from certain given that game has been rain-affected.
A win for the Welshmen would leave Steve Patterson and co needing a maximum of two points from their final round clash with Lancashire at Emerald Headingley from Sunday.
Like the one-run win over Northants at Headingley earlier in the season, this was another engaging and nervy affair on a tricky pitch for batting.
Bess finished with match figures of 9-102 and Brook a superb 113 off 178 balls in the second innings.
Yorkshire went top of the group, with Lancashire possibly reclaiming that position tomorrow.
Brook’s third Championship century represented only the third score of 50 or more in the match, including 71 for George Hill in the first innings.
Brook, aged 22, started day three on 76 not out with Yorkshire 159-6 in their second innings, leading by 147.
He added another 37 runs in serene fashion, playing two outstanding whips through mid-wicket and wide long-on for boundaries off seam as Jordan Thompson, captain Steve Patterson and Ben Coad fell around him.
Brook reached three figures off 168 balls before holing out to deep mid-wicket off the left-arm spin of Simon Kerrigan to give the hosts 25 minutes of batting to do before lunch.
Kerrigan finished with an excellent 5-39 from 30.2 overs.
Patterson made the breakthrough in the final over before lunch when he trapped his opposing captain Ricardo Vasconcelos lbw – 17-1.
Yorkshire then claimed seven wickets in an afternoon session which virtually ended Northants’ own hopes of finishing in the top two places in the group as they reached tea at 103-8, needing 103 more.
Patterson struck again in the second over after lunch – the eighth of the innings when he had Charlie Thurston sharply caught at short-leg by Gary Ballance.
And when Emilio Gay slapped Bess to cover at the start of the ninth, Northants had lost two wickets on 19 and were three down.
Bess had unlucky Rob Keogh caught at short-leg in the 13th – 28-4 – with a turning ball seemingly missing the inside edge and ballooning up off pad.
Saif Zaib then edged a rising delivery from Duanne Olivier to second slip five overs later, leaving Northants on the ropes at 43-5.
Tom Taylor took the counter-attacking route on the way to 40 off 44 balls to give Yorkshire something to think about as he and Luke Procter shared 54 for the sixth wicket.
But Yorkshire claimed three wickets inside five overs just before tea to reaffirm their grip on proceedings.
Taylor had a huge swipe at Ben Coad and was trapped lbw at the start of the 34th, leaving the score at 97-6. Later in the over, Gareth Berg chipped him to cover, where Sam Northeast took a second catch without addition.
Wayne Parnell was then run out at the striker’s end by Jordan Thompson from mid-wicket having been called through for a quick single by Procter in the final over of the session, the 39th of the innings, as Northants fell to 103-8.
Procter then shared 49 for the ninth wicket with fellow Lancastrian Simon Kerrigan (29) during the first half of the evening to heighten nerves.
But Olivier (3-34 from eight overs) removed Kerrigan caught behind with a short ball and Ben Sanderson lbw in the 53rd over to seal the win with 19 overs remaining in the day. Procter finished 42 not out.