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Five-star Azeem Rafiq completes job for Yorkshire but title just proves elusive
Yorkshire ended the season in style with a 239-run LV= County Championship win over Essex and executive chairman Colin Graves admitted: “It’s been a year to remember.”
It was not quite enough to win the Division Two title, Derbyshire pipping them by defeating Hampshire, but the success at Chelmsford means Yorkshire have gone the entire four-day campaign unbeaten.
The last time that happened was 1928 and Graves, speaking amid jubilant promotion celebrations, said: “I’m delighted for the guys.
“They’ve responded fantastically well since relegation and to achieve what we have this year is great. We had a long way to climb but we’ve done it.”
In many ways, the praise from Graves sums up Yorkshire’s change in fortunes in 2012.
This time last year the multi-millionaire businessman, whose personal fortune bankrolls the club, called the players a “disgrace” following relegation and asked them to take “a long, hard look at themselves”.
The victory over Essex proves they heeded his advice and the Tykes left the pitch to a deserved standing ovation.
Yorkshire had resumed the final day with their hosts on 28-2 in pursuit of a 388 victory target and took the remaining eight wickets in just over 40 overs of play.
Azeem Rafiq was the star of the show, finishing with career-best figures of 5-50, while Steve Patterson returned 4-34.
Patterson started the ball rolling when he removed Tom Craddock for five, before Rafiq began to work his magic.
Mark Pettini was his first victim thanks to a stunning one-handed catch by Gary Ballance at leg-slip, with three more Essex batsmen falling to the off-spinner before the close.
Graham Napier was his final wicket to leave the home side 135-8, before Patterson returned to end the game in emphatic style with two wickets in as many balls.
Reece Topley and Tymal Mills were the men to fall, leaving the fast bowler on a hat-trick when Yorkshire begin their Division One challenge next year.