Yorkshire CCC now have all bases covered in title bid - Chris Waters
WHAT to expect/demand from Yorkshire this season?
To these eyes, an extremely strong challenge for the County Championship title, given the depth and quality of players at their disposal, and at least a knockout place in the T20 Blast.
As for the One-Day Cup, that competition has been reduced to even more of a lottery than the other two due to the fact that it will be played at the same time as The Hundred. Anyone could win the One-Day Cup, effectively reduced to a second-class affair.
The Championship, of course, is the most important thing, and Yorkshire believe that they are ready to win it for the first time for six years. The club has undergone a long period of transition but looks primed to win silverware; indeed, had there been a full season last year, Yorkshire may well have done so in 2020.
There is a nice feel and balance to the Championship team. Adam Lyth and Tom Kohler-Cadmore form as good an opening partnership as any around. Gary Ballance is back after a period of ill-health (although out of the first match due to concussion). Joe Root is available in the season’s early weeks, off-setting the absence of Dawid Malan at the Indian Premier League. Harry Brook is also a youngster tipped to go far.
Jonny Tattersall has become a fine wicketkeeper and is capable of scoring Championship centuries.
Jordan Thompson and Matthew Waite (sadly also injured at present), plus David Willey provide the all-round skills along with new signing Dom Bess, who promises to have the same impact with the ball as Malan – when available – has had with the bat.
Throw in club captain Steve Patterson, now 37 years young but still one of county cricket’s most consistent operators, the new-ball pair of Ben Coad and Matthew Fisher plus overseas man Duanne Olivier, and there is plenty of talent on the pace bowling front.
Space prevents a eulogy for each player in the squad, suffice to say that Yorkshire have all bases covered and, from the outside looking in, a good spirit about them going into what promises to be an exciting year.
Yorkshire are in Conference Three in the new-look Championship, which has been split into three groups of six before the teams are rearranged later in the summer into three separate divisions.
The top two from each conference go into Division One, teams three and four into Division Two, and teams five and six into Division Three, with teams playing 10 games in the conference stage followed by four in the divisional phase. The Division One winners take the Championship pennant and then play-off against the Division One runners-up for the Bob Willis Trophy.
Looking at the conferences, which are based on a hybrid of each team’s finishing position in the 2019 Championship, their performance in last summer’s Bob Willis Trophy and with an element of local derby flexibility thrown in, Yorkshire should stroll into Division One.
Lancashire would seem to be their main challengers in a conference that also includes Kent, Sussex, Northamptonshire and Glamorgan, giving that group a decidedly Second Division feel in old money.
Nothing, of course, is ever as simple as it looks – try understanding the new conference format, for starters – but if Yorkshire do not finish in the top-two in their section they would be bitterly disappointed. After that, anything can happen to an extent as Yorkshire seek to challenge the likes of Essex and Somerset.
As for white-ball cricket, Yorkshire’s record is particularly poor in terms of silverware, although they have shown glimpses in T20 and, more noticeably, in one-day cricket since their last one-day trophy in 2002.
The One-Day Cup, as stated, is even more of a lottery now, but supporters have every right to expect Yorkshire to qualify for the knockout stages of the T20 Blast – something they have not managed since 2016.
The signing of Lockie Ferguson, the New Zealand fast bowler, should help with that ambition, as will the determination within the team to make the necessary improvements.
With first-class cricket steadily withering before our eyes (witness the way that Test cricket was disrespected during the winter), clubs have no desire to lag behind their rivals on the 20-over stage.
Yorkshire have always been a curious T20 team – brilliant one day, bafflingly inconsistent the next, but 20-over captain Willey has a talented squad.
All in all, it promises to be a good watch. Could a season that starts behind closed doors finish with Champagne celebrations in front of Yorkshire’s jubilant supporters?
Stranger things have happened at sea.
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