IN ONE of the most exciting climaxes to a county cricket season in years, Yorkshire can still pull off a remarkable double by clinching the Championship title and gaining promotion to Division I of the NatWest Pro40 League.
But, should they falter over their final 10 days of action, they could end up with nothing tangible to show for their efforts.
In such sad circumstances, their only consolation would be that they have managed to stay in the top flight of the Championship, which is something that many pundits did not think at all likely at the start of the campaign.
They now have two crunch matches to fulfil in that competition and both of them are against strong and determined opponents who are convinced that they can finish top of the pile themselves.
All things considered, Yorkshire must start out as underdogs at Hove on Wednesday when they take on title-holders, Sussex, who will obviously prepare a track which will suit their two world class spinners in Mushtaq Ahmed and the revitalised Saqlain Mushtaq.
Then they sit and twiddle their thumbs for over a week and wait to see if their rivals are taking advantage of games in hand before coming up against Hampshire in their final match at Headingley Carnegie.
No-one is yet absolutely sure whether Shane Warne will have recovered from his rib injury in time to lead Hampshire to possible glory in this match, but if the legendary Aussie leg-spinner can make it he will.
Yorkshire, of course, have their own injury problems at the moment with inspirational skipper, Darren Gough, suffering from sore shins and not yet absolutely certain whether he will see it through to the end of the season.
Like Warne, wild horses will not keep Gough away if there is any reasonable chance of him playing because he is desperate not only to lead Yorkshire to the much coveted Championship but also to prove to the doubters that he has had the willpower and stamina to go the full course.
Gough has been resting up this week after having to leave the field for treatment on his sore left shin during Yorkshire Phoenix’s NatWest Pro40 match against Surrey Lions at Scarborough last Sunday and then missing the game with Durham Dynamos at Riverside the following day.
The former England fast bowling star is now awaiting the results of a precautionary scan he had late this week just to be absolutely sure that he has not suffered a stress fracture.
Even if he gets the all-clear, the dilemma he faces is whether to risk coming back at Hove or to take it easy for another couple of weeks and be in fine fettle for the Hampshire match.
Shin soreness takes quite a time to ease up and neither Yorkshire nor Gough himself would want a situation to arise whereby he gambles on getting through all right at Hove only to break down in mid match.
That would leave Yorkshire a fast bowler short in the game and would also rule Gough out of the vital Hampshire fixture.
In the end, Gough will have to listen carefully to the advice given to him by Yorkshire physio, Scott McAllister, and then make up his mind on the best course of action, but he is a man with a mission and it will be difficult to hold him back.
Yorkshire’s visit to Riverside on Bank Holiday Monday concluded a switchback of a week for the team in which they hauled themselves back to the top of the Championship table with a stunning win over Warwickshire at North Marine Road and then threw away the opportunity to make absolutely certain of promotion to Division I of the NatWest Pro40 by losing horrendously to Surrey and Durham.
After being unbeaten in their first four matches, it is difficult to comprehend how badly they played in these two outings when even one victory would have been acceptable.
The walloping of Warwickshire in the Championship meant there was a packed holiday crowd at Scarborough for the Sunday match with the vast majority of fans certain that they would increase their lead at the top of the table.
But they went home disappointed and disillusioned after Yorkshire failed to make a contest of it by being bowled out for 145 – a total they would have been far from achieving if Gough had not strode to the crease at 58-8 and bravely struck an unbeaten 49.
Their batsmen were even worse against Durham when the first three in the order all departed without scoring and only a rugged half-century from Anthony McGrath inched them to 122.
Then Phil Mustard blasted Yorkshire’s bowlers to all parts with a cavalier 66 not out and only 15.4 overs were needed to knock off the runs.
On both days, Yorkshire misread the pitch and batted first when the ball was seaming around more and also keeping a shade low, but there can still be no excuse for such lamentable showings.
Perhaps the team had relaxed too much after the triumph over Warwickshire.
They must make absolutely sure that they remain razor sharp from now until the curtain falls on what may still turn out to be a fantastic season.