Young bloods Joe Sayers and Nick Thornicroft showed star quality at Headingley yesterday - but they could not stop Yorkshire Phoenix losing by three wickets to Gloucestershire Gladiators on the final day of the season.

Yorkshire were relegated before the game, but at least they had the small consolation of keeping off the bottom of the table.

Otley-born left-handed opener, Sayers, 20, marked his debut with a splendid innings of 62 in of a modest Phoenix total of 213 for seven and then 18-year-old paceman, Thornicroft, from Sheriff Hutton, grabbed career-best figures of five for 42 in his only senior appearance of the season.

At one stage in his opening spell, Thornicroft claimed three wickets in seven balls to have Gloucestershire tottering on 37 for four, but Matt Windows went on to slam an unbeaten 91 from 118 deliveries to see his side home with five balls to spare.

Anthony McGrath stepped down from the match and handed the captaincy to Matthew Wood as Yorkshire gave youth a chance and also making his competition debut was batsman Chris Taylor who hit a patient 28 and helped Sayers add 88 in 20 overs after Craig White cracked two sixes in his opening stand of 42 with Sayers.

The Oxford University and England Under-19s left-hander took 14 balls to get off the mark but he grew in confidence with some fine strokes on either side of the wicket and by the time he chased a wide one from off-spinner Martyn Ball to give a catch to cover point, he had faced 105 deliveries and hit seven fours and a six.

It was Ball who ran through Yorkshire's batting with career-best figures of five for 33 which beat his previous best, also against Yorkshire, of five for 44 at Cheltenham in 1999.

Chris Silverwood went unrewarded for a fine opening spell for Yorkshire but his new-ball partner Thornicroft was in dynamic form at the football end, getting Craig Spearman taken at first slip in his first over and later dismissing Tim Hancock and South African Jonty Rhodes within three balls before sending back Phil Weston to give him four wickets in his opening burst.

Thornicroft later returned to bowl Mark Hardinges with an inswinging yorker but by then Windows and Alex Gidman (48) had put on 111 in 24 hours to give runners-up Gloucestershire a firm grip on the game which they never relinquished.

* Kent, the only county who have always been in the First Division of both forms of cricket, saved themselves from relegation with a comfortable 104-run victory over Warwickshire in the National League.

After the hosts had put on 267 for seven from their allotted overs, Warwickshire's batsmen began their innings in a cavalier fashion and were reduced to 36 for four in just 10 overs.