A superb Shan Masood century – 123 off 131 balls – helped carry Yorkshire to an impressive season-ending LV= Insurance County Championship victory over promoted Worcestershire at Headingley as they reeled in a final day target of 360 to win by six wickets with three overs remaining.
Captain Masood’s second century for the county he debuted for in May lit up a day which started with both sides conjuring up an exciting finish in the final 70 overs of the Division Two campaign.
Worcestershire, already guaranteed to finish second in the table, declared their second innings on 262-2 following a run-filled morning brought about by some declaration bowling for almost 20 overs from Fin Bean and James Wharton.
The latter later contributed an excellent career best 89 through the heart of the chase, sharing 164 for the third wicket with Masood.
They both fell to leave the target at 81 inside 14 overs with Yorkshire 279-4, but George Hill and Jonny Tattersall carried Yorkshire with an unbroken 84 stand. Tattersall hit the winning runs to finish with 44 not out.
Opener Jake Libby made 109 not out and Jack Haynes an unbeaten 113 for Worcestershire.
It meant Yorkshire would be chasing a stiff target – the fourth highest successful chase in their first-class history if they achieved it.
And that is exactly what happened as Yorkshire hauled themselves off bottom spot in Division Two, replacing Gloucestershire, who finished there. Yorkshire have only ever finished bottom of the Championship – 40 years ago – and they had no intention of adding to that list.
Adam Lyth set the tone with an impressive 51 either side of lunch, reaching 1,000 Championship runs for the fourth time in his career.
Lyth is only the third Yorkshire player in the 21st century to post 1,000 in a season on four occasions – and the first Englishman. Darren Lehmann and Jacques Rudolph were the others.
Unfortunately, his opening partner Bean was unable to join him. In falling for 11 – caught and bowled by Dillon Pennington just before lunch – he finished his breakthrough campaign with 983 runs.
It was enough, though, to ensure he was named the 2023 Members’ Player of the Year. That award was given to him by club president Jane Powell at lunch.
But Masood was today’s main man, ably supported by a wonderful Wharton knock.
The Pakistan international looked in excellent touch as he took full toll on a Worcestershire attack who struggled to make an impact in excellent batting conditions, with the pitch flat and the sky sunny.
He drove and worked well and lofted left-arm spinner Josh Baker for a straight six en-route to a 57-ball fifty.
Masood shared 88 for the second wicket with Lyth, advancing from 22-1.
Lyth fell caught at mid-wicket off a miscue against Baker, leaving Yorkshire at 110-2 in the 25th over.
That brought Wharton to the crease, and he too imposed himself on a county whom he scored a scintillating Vitality Blast century against here at the height of summer.
They took the score to 175-2 from 39 overs at tea, the target now 185 more in 31. The target may have been just short of six runs an over, but it felt like Yorkshire’s game to lose.
Wharton reached his fifty off 71 balls, with Masood’s ton off 107 balls following.
Wharton, 22-years-old, showed flashes of the dynamism on display in that aforementioned Blast innings – 111 not out here in June.
He hit Baker down the ground for two of three sixes in all in this innings.
Yorkshire (237-2) required 123 off the last 20 overs and realistically never encountered a problem as the pair amassed one of the county’s best partnerships all summer.
They both fell in successive Baker overs – Wharton bowled and Masood caught at deep mid-wicket, leaving the score at 279-4 in the 57th.
But Hill and Tattersall maintained the intent, the latter hitting a six over long-on off Baker just before sweeping the winning runs to seal a 20-point haul.
The first hour’s cricket was a means to an end. It was forgettable but necessary to avoid yet another dull and dead final day, setting up a potentially thrilling finale.
Worcestershire resumed on 18-2 with a lead of 145.
Yorkshire bowled properly for the opening five overs through Matt Milnes and Ben Coad, but with no breakthrough they reverted to declaration bowling from Bean and Wharton.
They shared 19.1 overs, conceding more than 100 runs apiece.
Libby and Haynes, the latter in his final appearance for Worcestershire ahead of a move to Nottinghamshire, were handed the chance to boost their season’s averages and both reached centuries as a total of 214 runs were scored in double-quick time.
“People don’t come to watch draws, so it’s nice to set up a result,” said Bean as he accepted his Player of the Year award on the outfield at lunch.
It worked out perfectly for Yorkshire as they avoided finishing bottom for the first time since 1983.