Yorkshire made sure of their Division One status in the Specsavers County Championship for the 2019 season despite being on the receiving end of another century from Worcestershire opener Daryl Mitchell at Blackfinch New Road.
There was an end-of-season feel to proceedings.
A group of vicars, inching along the narrow walkway at the New Road end during the lunch break, assured one startled onlooker: “Don’t worry, we are genuine. We just thought we’d come for a vicars’ day out.”
Conversations in the crowd were about forthcoming holidays – “Sandra and I are off to the Seychelles next week”, enthused one excitable middle-aged gentleman, while old friends gathered for the last time this summer, sitting in the shadow of the famous cathedral.
Next year this ground will play host to Division Two cricket after Worcestershire’s relegation was last week confirmed.
Any fears that Yorkshire would be joining them, however, were finally allayed on a sunny first day, the visitors collecting the two bonus points needed to guarantee Division One safety.
In their final match of a turbulent season Yorkshire got those points for first of all taking three wickets and then for taking six, with a maximum of three bowling points on offer for nine collected inside 110 overs.
It took the visitors 83.2 overs to get that all-important sixth wicket with Worcestershire in no mood to roll over with one eye on some distant beach, Mitchell top-scoring for them with 127 to follow his 178 at Scarborough last month, and Jack Brooks returning 5-83.
On the contrary, what had threatened to be a formality given Worcestershire’s plight, the fact that Yorkshire were able to bowl first as the visiting side and the 10.30am start that traditionally favours bowlers at this time of year, was anything but as the hosts fought hard on a sluggish pitch.
Only when Moeen Ali was in full cry did run-scoring look fluent or easy, however, the England man stroking a sublime 60 that did justice to the timeless surroundings and late September weather.
In glorious conditions play began with a minute’s silence for Roy Booth, the former Yorkshire and Worcestershire wicketkeeper, who has died aged 91.
There were a good number of Yorkshire supporters in the 2,000 crowd, with Worcestershire playing their first home match since winning the Vitality T20 Blast, a proud achievement for their coach Kevin Sharp, a former Yorkshire player.
On the day that they announced that they have agreed a new one-year contract with Adil Rashid, the England leg-spinner, Yorkshire handed a first-team debut to James Logan, a 20-year-old left-arm spinner, and recalled Jack Leaning in place of fellow batsman Harry Brook.
The visitors managed only one wicket during the first session, Tom Fell caught at third slip by Leaning midway through after being squared up by a ball from Tim Bresnan.
Fell’s departure brought Moeen to the crease, the Worcestershire captain given a noticeably rousing reception.
Yorkshire saw quite enough of him at Scarborough, where he made 219 and claimed match figures of 8-89 to help his side to an innings win, and he showed his attacking intent by launching Bresnan on the up for four over mid-on.
On a pitch so slow that wicketkeeper Jonny Tattersall regularly stood up to pace, and to counter Mitchell’s habit of playing outside of his crease, Moeen played some imperious shots – not least when he deposited Logan’s 11th ball in first-class cricket for six over long-on into the Diglis End.
He slog-swept his 16th ball for six too, leading his team to a healthy 82-1 at lunch, when the posse of vicars went for a stroll around the ground.
Mitchell was dropped on 43 after the break by Tattersall off Brooks, with Tom Kohler-Cadmore unable to pouch the rebound at slip, before Moeen tried one big shot too many and miscued a pull to first slip, where Kohler-Cadmore this time pouched a high opportunity, ending a stand of 102 with Mitchell in 27 overs.
Nottinghamshire-bound Joe Clarke was bowled off stump by Brooks for a painstaking eight, compiled from 46 balls in 49 minutes, and Worcestershire fell to 154-4 when Ben Coad had Alex Milton edging to Kohler-Cadmore at first slip, and then to 167-5 when Brooks trapped Ben Cox lbw as he tried to work to leg.
Logan was denied a maiden wicket when Adam Lyth failed to hold an edge from Ed Barnard at slip, but Brooks finally got the sixth wicket when he trapped Barnard lbw playing back before removing Wayne Parnell for a golden duck, Lyth this time taking the chance at second slip.
Brooks claimed his fifth wicket when Mitchell pulled to Logan at deep mid-wicket, ending a fine innings that spanned 252 balls and included 17 fours.