Yorkshire retained their County Championship title after wrapping up their defence with a comprehensive victory over second-placed Middlesex to ensure they finished the season at the top of Division One. Under the guidance of former Australia fast bowler Jason Gillespie, Yorkshire have again been the dominant force in the four-day game this year, and it was fitting that it was veteran Ryan Sidebottom who took the wickets that saw the county claim the title ahead of Middlesex and Nottinghamshire, passing the 700 wicket mark in the process.
Needing to score 350 to stay in contention with Yorkshire, Middlesex were crushed before they even started, with Sidebottom helping himself to three wickets in the opening over of the match. The three bowling points that Yorkshire earned, combined with Middlesex and Nottinghamshire's failure to collect maximum batting points, ensured they became the first county since Durham in 2009 to retain their crown, the 32nd time in the club's history they have won the County Championship title.
Starting the game with a 43 point lead at the top, Yorkshire were deserving winners and it was only right that Sidebottom was the man who set the tone. Ever since returning to the White Rose in 2011, the former England bowler has been a key part of this side that has been carefully built by the club and head coach Jason Gillespie. The Aussie also returned to Headingley in 2011, five years after spending a successful season as a player, leading Yorkshire from the Second Division to the County Championship title in his first three years as head coach.
Despite the presence of a number of world class players, Yorkshire have again been without the majority of their star names this season, with Adam Lyth, Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett all missing parts of this year due to their involvement in England's various teams. In their absence, Gillespie has brought through a string of talented youngster who could have big roles to play for both England and Yorkshire in the future, most notably Steven Patterson and Matthew Fisher.
Led by captain Andrew Gale, helped by experienced pros such as Sidebottom and Tim Bresnan, as well as overseas players Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell, Yorkshire have found a winning formula of proven names and talented youngsters. But this season hasn't gone without incident, though, and it had looked at one time that the club would lose the head coach that has been so instrumental to their recent success. Having parted with Peter Moores at the start of the summer, Gillespie looked set to be the man to replace the outgoing England head coach, finding himself among the betting favourites with the likes of bet365 and other bookies.
Seemingly at the last minute, though, the ECB made the call to hire a different Australian, Trevor Bayliss, in the role ahead of Gillespie. While England went on to beat the Aussies 3-2 to reclaim the Ashes last month, Yorkshire were able to put their focus back to matters on the field safe in the knowledge that their head coach would be staying. What is evident, however, is that Gillespie's exploits haven't gone unnoticed and Yorkshire could find themselves battling to keep their head coach again some time soon.