Gary Ballance is hoping Yorkshire can make full use of ‘fortress Headingley’ as they bid for an upturn in their Specsavers County Championship fortunes.
Yorkshire return to action at their Headingley headquarters after a two-and-a-half week break today when they host champions Middlesex in the first of four remaining games this season.
Both sides find themselves at the wrong end of Division One heading into the final stretch.
Middlesex are sixth with only two wins from 10 and have 106 points, while Yorkshire are seventh with three wins from 10 and have 103.
Ballance’s side sit one place and 23 points above second-bottom Somerset.
It is not quite panic stations just yet, but it likely will be if they don’t pick up a win in the next couple of games.
“We’ve obviously played some very good cricket for the last few years at Headingley. We’re looking forward to it.”Gary Ballance
Thankfully, Yorkshire begin the run-in at Headingley, where they have lost only three Championship matches since the start of 2012, including this season’s opener against Hampshire.
“We’ve obviously played some very good cricket for the last few years at Headingley,” said captain Ballance. “We’re looking forward to it.
“Our bowling attack suits conditions there, and the guys have scored runs there.
“It’s good to know that two of the last four games (Warwickshire also visit) are at Headingley. Hopefully we can put some good performances in.
“It’s been a bit disappointing for the lads this season.
“We haven’t played as good a cricket as we’d like, but that happens. We’ve been missing a few players, and that kind of thing can happen when you come up against good teams, especially ones that play well like Essex did at Scarborough.
“With a strong team out against Middlesex, we’re confident of a strong performance.”
Yorkshire’s major problem area has been their batting, with Ballance the undoubted standout with 815 runs from eight matches at an average of 101.87.
But Ballance is one of two notable additions in that top order alongside Australian batsman Shaun Marsh, who debuts for the county in four-day cricket. Ballance has missed the last two matches against Somerset and Essex at Scarborough, both defeats, due to England commitments and injury.
Marsh missed the Essex game early last month due to concussion, and he is set to open the batting alongside Adam Lyth.
Middlesex have beaten Yorkshire on their last four visits to Lord’s since 2014, including earlier this season by an innings, and have won five of the last seven fixtures between the two at all venues.
“We know how good a team Middlesex are having played some good cricket against us recently,” said Ballance.
“But they haven’t had the season they’d want either. That just shows how competitive this league is. Any team can beat the other.”
Ironically, Ballance has not batted for Yorkshire since the defeat against Middlesex at Lord’s in late June, but he is fit again having fractured his finger whilst batting for England against South Africa in mid-July.
“I’m really pleased with how it’s gone this season, but I want it to continue for the next four games,” he added.
“Hopefully that coincides with some good form for the team, which is the most important.”
Regular opener Alex Lees is in the squad and in contention to bat in the middle order following some excellent second-team form.
But it is not completely out of the question he could still open the batting as the birth of Lyth’s first child is imminent.