Why Middlesex and Yorkshire were right to force a result in County Championship finale
17:05 28 September 2016
While most cricket fans inside Lord’s and beyond were entranced by the exciting spectacle that unfolded on Friday, there were also some voicing outrage.
Much of the grumbling emanated from Somerset supporters, who could only watch with mounting frustration as their own team’s chances of a first County Championship title were crushed.
Had the Middlesex captain James Franklin and his opposite number, Yorkshire’s Andrew Gale, not negotiated an agreed target, the match at Lord’s would have petered out into a draw.
That would have left both teams empty-handed and sparked celebrations at Taunton – which many neutral cricket fans would probably have liked to see.
For some, the sight of Adam Lyth and Alex Lees sending down easy lobs that enabled Middlesex to score quickly and reach a position where they could declare, made a mockery of the game.
It was unusual, yes. Surreal, even. But what the detractors seem to miss is that the contrived finish was actually very much in the spirit of cricket – a gentleman’s agreement that made it possible for there to be a winner.
That deal would indeed have seemed suspect had only one of the teams in action at Lord’s been involved in the tussle for top spot, but this was a unique situation.
Both sides were fighting for the championship and both were willing to risk losing in order to give themselves a chance of winning it.
It was also agreed that Yorkshire would continue to chase runs even if they lost most of their wickets, rather than blocking for a draw, as they would probably have done in different circumstances.
What could be more sporting?
There is another aspect to this peculiar situation – namely that, as most observers of county cricket would agree, Middlesex and Yorkshire were the two strongest and most consistent sides in Division One all season.
It was fitting that the pair should slug it out for the right to be crowned champions. Yes, Somerset deserve some sympathy for finishing the year with three straight wins and narrowly missing out on the title.
With that said, it must be said that three of their Championship victories during the season resulted from low-scoring games on their own Taunton track, where a high number of wickets tumbled on the first day.
It seems surprising that, nevertheless, the ECB consistently deemed Somerset’s pitch to be up to standard. Had they not done so, there would presumably have been a strong possibility of a points deduction.
So maybe justice was done at Lord’s – and the game of cricket, far from being tarnished in some way, was actually the winner.