Darren Gough’s final year in cricket saw Yorkshire endure a rocky and sometimes controversial campaign that ended in the Tykes, narrowly, preserving their place in Division One of the County Championship. Sports Writer Graham Hardcastle looks back on the season.

OUTGOING Yorkshire captain Darren Gough has hailed 2008 as a “very good year” following the White Rose county’s great escape from County Championship relegation in the final week of the season.

Gough concluded a 20-year first-class career having guided the Tykes to safety in LV Division One, only just, a semi-final spot in the Friends Provident Trophy, a quarterfinal place in the Twenty20 Cup, although they were subsequently disqualified, and promotion in the Pro40.

The 38-year-old former England bowler was delighted to see Adil Rashid and David Wainwright score centuries in last week’s Championship draw at Sussex, helping the Tykes recover from 80 for six to record the five maximum batting points needed for survival.

“It looked a massive problem,” said Gough, as he reflected on his final season in county cricket.

“We always try to be positive. We knew that those in the tail-end could bat, but you could forgive anybody for thinking that we were in trouble at 80 for six.

“We played an extra batsman, and a spinner who could bat. That was the correct selection to give us a long tail. To get to 400 was absolutely unbelievable, and then to declare. It’s a credit to our team.

“I have tried to install that pride, that passion, that belief that you can win from any situation. I have tried to get us playing cricket the way I want us to play. It is gradually clicking into place.”

Despite the fact that the County Championship is widely viewed as the landmark competition in English cricket, it seems that Gough’s main aim was to improve his side’s fortunes in the limited overs arena.

That was highlighted by the fact that he played only eight four-day matches, the equivalent of half a season, to rest himself for one-day battles.

“I think we have been magnificent in one-day cricket. That was my biggest challenge, improving us in one-day cricket,” he continued. “I have said that ever since I returned to the club two seasons ago.

“I think we have way under-achieved in recent years. But to get to a semifinal of the Friends Provident Trophy, a quarter-final of the Twenty20 Cup, then to get promoted in the Pro40 was absolutely incredible.

“We could have won more had we not been kicked out of the Twenty20 because of that fiasco with the Azeem Rafiq registration.

“The one-day game has been amazing for us. It is a credit to the squad. We have played some great cricket. I know what I want in one-day cricket. I know my best players and I know our strengths.

“The problem we had in four-day cricket was that we had to field so many players.

We had injury problems at the start of the season, which never helps.

“The way I look at it now, after survival, is that we have actually had a very good year.”

In terms of championship cricket, Yorkshire will be kicking themselves for not capitalising on a two-point lead at the top after the performance of the season against Somerset at Taunton in early June.

They had a run of four defeats in five matches – to Kent, Durham, Nottinghamshire and Hampshire.

Their batting was a major problem at that stage – they were bowled out for less than 200 three times in consecutive matches, as well as capitulating to 107 all out at the Rose Bowl.

But Gough reasoned: “We have so many players now who have had first-team experience. They have got a taste of what it is like and they will be hungry to come back.

“The likes of Ben Sanderson, Oliver Hannon- Dalby, David Wainwright, Adil Rashid, who has played all season, and Adam Lyth.

“We were expecting a bitpart season for Lyth and it should have been a bit-part season for him. But because of injury he has ended up proving to us what we knew he could do all along.

“The kid is going to be a good batsman. He needs to work on a couple of things, become more consistent in areas, but what a season he has had for such a young boy.”

Lyth, the 21-year-old lefthander from Whitby, was actually given the club’s young player of the year award following a smooth transition from the second team to first-team cricket in both the one-day and four-day game.

He notched his maiden championship century in a losing cause against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in July.

Former South Africa Test star Jacques Rudolph, another left-handed batsman, was undoubtedly Yorkshire’s player of the year.

That was demonstrated by the fact that he was a double winner in the club’s end-of-season honours list. The 27 year-old, who arrived at Headingley in time for the 2007 season, retained both the club’s player of the year award and the player’s player of the year award.

In fact it has been so good a season for the Pretorian, he is going to have a complete break from cricket ahead of 2009.

He said: “It’s been a good season but it’s been long and hard.

“I’m going to winter really well.

“I’ve got a complete break from everything, so I’m looking forward to that.”

Rudolph was closely followed in the member’s voting for the club award by all-rounder Tim Bresnan, who gained England one-day recognition on the back of some sparkling performances in all forms of the game.

Despite registration catastrophe off the field, spoiling his first-team debut in a Twenty20 Cup North Division match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, off-spinner Rafiq did enough with his performances in the second team to claim the academy player of the year gong.

We will surely see more of the 17-year-old in first-team cricket next year. After all, he is granted an English passport when he turns 18 in February.

Rich Pyrah was also named the club’s fielder of the year.

But that is not to say that the all-rounder did not impress with bat and ball.