The Yorkshire first-team coach wants one last push to prevent the hosts from lifting the Championship trophy in front of his own players at Trent Bridge – and to secure the second-placed finish that would see them through to the BWT final against the eventual champions.
Yorkshire realistically need to win in Nottingham and hope that bottom club Somerset beat title aspirants Warwickshire at Edgbaston and also that there is a positive result between title rivals Lancashire and Hampshire at Liverpool to reach the five-day season finale that starts at Lord’s next Tuesday.
It is a long shot given that Yorkshire are fifth on 41.5 points behind Hampshire (58.5), Warwickshire (55), Lancashire (54.5) and Notts (52), with Somerset (26.5) way back in the rear view mirror.
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Yorkshire will be without their England quartet of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan and David Willey, all of whom have been rested ahead of the international winter, and captain Steve Patterson, who picked up a hamstring injury during last week’s defeat to Warwickshire that ended Yorkshire’s title charge.
“I want to finish the season on a high,” said Gale, who has presided over six wins, five draws and two defeats in this year’s tournament.
“Notts have a chance of winning the Championship and the last thing I want is to see them lift the trophy in front of us. We’ll go there and try to play our best cricket.
“It’s important that we turn up and put a performance in and don’t just think our season’s done.
“We can’t win the Championship, but we want to go to Trent Bridge and put a performance in and get to the Bob Willis final.”
Just over five weeks ago, Yorkshire were in the hunt for the treble. They were the only county to qualify for Division One of the Championship and also the knockout stages of both white-ball competitions only to lose quarter-finals to Essex in the Royal London Cup and Sussex in the T20 Blast.
Although disappointed to finish without silverware for a sixth successive year, albeit with that BWT final still theoretically possible, Gale believes Yorkshire are emerging as a force once more after a transitional period since they last won the Championship in 2015.
Since then the squad has been reshaped with only two members of this week’s 13-man party – Gary Ballance and Adam Lyth – regular members of the team which memorably won back-to-back titles.
“We’ve talked a lot about transition and we’ve shown that we’re out of that now,” said Gale. “We’ve competed with the best teams in the league. We smashed Somerset in two days, we were one wicket away from beating Hampshire – who could go on and win the Championship – and we gave Warwickshire a run for their money.
“We are contenders, and I expect us to be contenders in all three formats next season. They’re very young, these lads, but some of them are coming to the right age now and they’re ready to win things.”
To do so, Yorkshire must win the key moments a little more regularly. It would be an injustice to say that they have not had a pretty good year in all cricket, not least in the Championship, but the last game against Warwickshire was an illustration of the consistency needed to go the step further.
In a low-scoring contest, they conceded an important first-innings lead when they should really have gained one, falling short at vital times with the ball and especially with the bat. It left Gale frustrated after a promising start to the divisional stage.
“It’s disappointing this year because we were nearly there,” he said. “But sometimes you’ve got to go through this sort of thing. It happened in 2013 when we were nearly there but not quite there, and then we went and won it two years on the trot.
“Hopefully, these lads will use that hurt as we did as players back then, and ultimately it’s all about handling pressure better and the key moments in games and learning how to put games to bed.”
Notts slipped from first to fourth with defeat to Hampshire in Southampton last week, with just 6.5 points separating the top four.
It has been a much-improved season for Notts, however, who have emerged from almost three years without a Championship victory to win six of their 13 fixtures this year.
A seventh in 14 would give them a chance of their first title since 2010.
Yorkshire (from): Ballance, Bess, Brook, Coad, Duke, Fisher, Fraine, Hill, Kohler-Cadmore, Lyth, Olivier, Revis, Thompson.