Yorkshire CCC v Warwickshire – White Rose with nothing to lose in bid to lift County Championship crown
THE journey back to Yorkshire was made in silence.
Andrew Gale, the Yorkshire first team coach, and Rich Pyrah, the bowling coach, friends and former team-mates, did not speak a word as they travelled back through the late August night.
Yorkshire had just lost their T20 quarter-final against Sussex at Chester-le-Street, a neutral venue because Headingley was in use for the Test match, and disappointment hung heavy in the air.
“We’ve played some good cricket this year, we’ve won some nippers, but I guess the speed bump was that quarter-final,” reflected Gale, whose side go into tomorrow’s penultimate County Championship match against Warwickshire at Emerald Headingley eyeing their first title triumph since 2015, and with Dawid Malan back to assist their quest following the cancellation of yesterday’s fifth and final Test match against India at Old Trafford.
“We were desperate to go to T20 Finals Day, and it was a bitter pill to swallow.
“I drove back with Rich – two-and-a-half hours back from Durham, and we didn’t speak a word.
“It felt like we’d missed the boat a little bit.
“But I’ve really enjoyed this season, and with two games left, we’ve still got a chance of winning the Championship.
“That’s credit to the players, and also the way that they’ve bounced back since that quarter-final defeat.”
It would have been easy for Yorkshire to mope around feeling sorry for themselves after that quarter-final setback – more so, indeed, when they then failed to win their opening game in the Championship’s divisional stage, against Hampshire at Southampton, when the hosts escaped with nine wickets down.
But they bounced back superbly to thrash Somerset by an innings and 33 runs at Scarborough last week, a result that has lifted them to joint-second in Division One – 10.5 points behind leaders Nottinghamshire, who they face in their final fixture at Trent Bridge from September 21.
To that effect, Yorkshire, who began the divisional stage bottom of the top flight on four points, 16.5 points behind then leaders Warwickshire, having carried through the fewest number of points from the group stage, and Nottinghamshire, who were second-bottom on five points, have turned the table on its head.
The team that finishes first will be crowned champions before the top-two face off in the Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s from September 28.
“We’ve got nothing to lose now,” added Gale.
“We’re still the underdogs in my book, and I think that probably suits us.
“We’ll give it our best shot, and hopefully play our best cricket in these last two games.
“I’m sure Warwickshire would have looked at that result (against Somerset at Scarborough) and thought, ‘Yorkshire are in good form’, and they’ll be wary of us,” he added.
Gale has been delighted with the last two performances, which have featured some of Yorkshire’s best cricket this season and handed them a genuine chance of winning the Championship for the first time since 2015.
Although they still face two tough games, as well as the prospect of uncertain weather at this time of year, it would be a strange side that fancied facing them on current form, and Warwickshire should have their work cut out this week – especially given the body blow of losing their match against Hampshire at Edgbaston last week.
Hampshire prevailed by 60 runs to go level on points with Yorkshire, while Warwickshire have slipped back into fourth – 2.5 points behind Yorkshire and Hampshire.
One less heralded aspect of Yorkshire’s recent form has been their slip catching, which was so impressive and integral to their victory at Scarborough.
Adam Lyth, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Harry Brook were all highly impressive alongside wicketkeeper Harry Duke, with Gale believing it is evidence of the hard work that goes on in practice.
“The lads work really, really hard on their slip catching,” he said.
“We’ve got a fielding machine that we carry everywhere with us.
“It was a pain in the proverbial early-season, when we couldn’t travel on a coach, carrying it around in my small car with scratches all over it, but all that hard work has really paid off.
“The lads put a lot into their catching and they’re getting their results.”
In the other Division One fixtures starting tomorrow, Somerset entertain Lancashire at Taunton and Hampshire face Nottinghamshire at the Ageas Bowl.
The divisional stage, which concludes with Yorkshire’s visit to Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, also sees Lancashire host Hampshire at Liverpool and Warwickshire take on Somerset at Edgbaston.
The permutations are fascinating as we reach the business end of the summer.
Yorkshire’s 14-man squad for tomorrow’s game: Ballance, Bess, Brook, Coad, Duke, Fisher, Hill, Kohler-Cadmore, Lyth, Malan, Olivier, Patterson (captain), Thompson, Willey.