WIth the new regime, which had saved the club from bankruptcy, firmly installed, big things were expected of Yorkshire in 2003. But the long, hot summer produced a damp squib rather than a firecracker as far as results and performances were concerned.

Unusually for professional sport, players and management alike were big enough not even to attempt excuses.

They admitted instead that there had been under-achievement while at the same time insisting that structural changes would be made to bring about an improvement next season.

Anticipation and expectation were high in early April, however, as the four-man management board confidently felt that the gloomy days of the previous season were over and that Yorkshire would soon be back among the elite.

But success on the field proved harder to mastermind than either getting the club's books back in order or being able to announce a new £25m redevelopment plan for Headingley.

The failure to win Championship promotion at the first attempt, the drop into Division Two of the National League and the easy surrender of the Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy were all bitter pills to swallow.

One of Yorkshire's main weaknesses all season was that they lacked a genuine all-rounder and with hindsight they should have filled the void by signing an overseas player who could bat and bowl instead of opting solely for batsmen.

It had been hoped that both Craig White and Gavin Hamilton would become the sort of high quality all-rounders they were before White had rib and back trouble and Hamilton lost the confidence to bowl.

But when White had recovered from his rib operation he still found bowling too uncomfortable, while Hamilton tried and failed at second team and league level to make a comeback with his bowling and in his occasional first team games he was used only as a batsman.

Gary Fellows, the third all-rounder on the staff, made a weak start to the season and soon lost his place and drifted out of contention, which was a pity if only because he remained the outstanding fielder on Yorkshire's books.

Now Hamilton and Fellows have gone, along with the unhappy Ryan Sidebottom, whose left- arm swing bowling will be hard to replace next season.

Yorkshire suffered a severe setback when their star Australian batsman, Matthew Elliott, had to return home before playing a game because of an injury picked up during the winter and the terminal illness of his brother-in-law.

But they made a poor choice of replacement in Indian Yuvraj Singh, who never lived up to his potential and left at the end of August, having filled a place which could have gone to one of Yorkshire's own young players.

New Zealand captain, Stephen Fleming, signed after Yuvraj, had some outstanding innings but lacked consistency, and although his wealth of experience benefited the dressing room he was not here long enough to make any real impact on results.

The pity was that Australian Damien Martyn, signed in September as a last-gasp measure to try to gain promotion, was not available all season.

Martyn played one of the truly great Championship innings of all time in the final match against Gloucestershire when his 238 included the fastest century of the season. The fact that he was signed so late was an indication of Yorkshire's desperate plight.

New captain Anthony McGrath, new vice-captain Matthew Wood and new coach Kevin Sharp all found themselves thrown in at the deep end sooner than expected for various reasons and in the circumstances acquitted themselves very well.

They were not responsible for Yorkshire's deep-seated problems, which began with the stripping of the captaincy from David Byas immediately after winning the Championship in 2001 and continued with the sacking of their Australian coach Wayne Clark before the start of last season.

Clark's only big mistake while with Yorkshire was to recommend that Byas be replaced as captain after the pair had worked so well together. If Yorkshire had not agreed to it then they may not have found themselves in the situation of wanting to get rid of Clark himself a year down the line.

It would be wrong to suggest that all was gloom and doom in a summer of blue skies and warm sunshine and three players merit special mention.

Although Wood suddenly found himself captaining Yorkshire for the first time following the surprise elevation to England status of McGrath, it never affected his batting, which was a vast improvement on the previous year.

Wood was the only batsman in the side to top 1,000 Championship runs and his final tally of 1,339, with four centuries and a double century at an average of 53.56, was simply magnificent.

The only regular batsman to hold a candle to Wood was 23-year-old left-hander Michael Lumb, son of Richard, the former Yorkshire opener.

The fluency of Lumb's batting was a joy to behold and his inclusion this autumn among the first intake of young players at the new England Academy at Loughborough is another rung up the ladder to an eventual Test place.

Lumb achieved 1,038 first-class runs for Yorkshire and he would no doubt have managed 1,000 in the Championship if a nervous spell had not followed the awarding of his county cap, which he marked by bagging a pair against Worcestershire at Scarborough to start a sequence which brought him eight runs in five innings.

Capped at the same time as Lumb was Yorkshire's red-haired terrier, Steve Kirby, who was the undisputed king of the quicks.

Kirby shouldered most of the hard work, bowling 463 Championship overs, which was 112 more than anyone else, and he was rewarded with 67 wickets at 26.40 runs apiece.

He twice captured ten or more wickets in a match and in one golden period picked up 46 wickets in six games - a figured bettered throughout the whole of the season only by Chris Silverwood with 48.

Kirby is not the crazy man which his occasional tantrums have led the fans to assume and maturity should bring a calmer image next season that will appeal more readily to the England selectors.