ANDREW GALE believes that Yorkshire’s supporters are starting to see the best of David Willey.
The England all-rounder has run into form with some top performances in the T20 Blast.
Willey has struggled to make a consistent impact since joining from Northants for 2016.
But he showed his class with a career-best 118 against Worcestershire at Headingley on Sunday, Yorkshire’s highest individual T20 score.
“It’s been a bit stop-start for him this year,” said Gale, with Willey having been surplus to requirements for England in the Champions Trophy and not a regular in Yorkshire’s four-day side.
“It doesn’t matter how good a cricketer you are, you need to be playing cricket regularly, and his hundred will give him a lot of confidence.
There’s been no complaints from Dave; he’s just got his head down and got on with it, and he’s making match-winning contributions every game. He only knows one way to play, and that’s what we encourage him to doYorkshire first-team coach, Andrew Gale
“Whether he is involved with England again at the back end of the year, we’ll just have to wait and see.
“We’re just happy to have him back at the moment and playing so well.”
Prior to the Blast beginning on July 7, Willey had played only 18 days of first-team cricket this season for Yorkshire and England.
He admitted to finding it hard to get into a rhythm, particularly with dropping in-and-out of the various formats of first-class and limited-overs cricket.
But the 27-year-old has looked like a man on a mission in the Blast and eager to make up for lost time.
His scores so far have been 25, 42, 23 not out, 70 and 118, while he has also chipped in with four wickets and some typically wholehearted performances in the field.
“Dave is a three-dimensional cricketer,” said Gale, whose side are chasing their third straight T20 win tonight against Durham at Headingley.
“He clears the ropes, he hits sixes, he swings the new ball and he’s an absolute gun fielder.
“He’s one of the best T20 players in England, without a doubt.
“Dave is brilliant for us, and if I could have 11 Dave Willeys in the dressing room, I would.
“He’s up and at you all the time and he’s a great competitor.”
Gale said that Willey had wanted to continue opening the batting this year as he did for Yorkshire in T20 last summer.
However, the move was a limited success, with Willey scoring 272 runs in 11 matches, a total heavily founded on scores of 79 in the quarter-final victory over Glamorgan at Cardiff and 74 against Northants at Headingley.
“Dave wanted to open again in this format and he made his feelings known about that, but we felt that No 3 was probably his best spot,” said Gale.
“There’s been no complaints from Dave; he’s just got his head down and got on with it, and he’s making match-winning contributions every game.
“He only knows one way to play, and that’s what we encourage him to do – to play that positive style of cricket.
“If he feels that he can hit every ball for six, then we encourage him to go for it.”
Such attacking strategies are permeating Yorkshire’s T20 cricket at present.
In the modern parlance, they are not inclined to die wondering in the game’s shortest format, an approach that has twice seen them break their record T20 total in the opening six matches.
Their 227-5 against Nottinghamshire at Headingley in the first game beat their previous highest score of 223-6 against tonight’s opponents at Leeds last summer, while they raised the bar to 233-6 against Worcestershire on the back of Willey’s outstanding hundred, which eclipsed the county’s previous highest individual T20 score of 109 by Australian Ian Harvey against Derbyshire at Headingley in 2005.
It was a total founded on a brutal display in the batting powerplay, with Willey, Adam Lyth and Alex Lees helping Yorkshire amass 78 runs from the first six overs to set the tone.
“We encourage a good batting powerplay,” added Gale. “It’s in our game plan, to be fearless and brave, and that if you think it’s your day to just keep going.
“Forget about wickets; that’s how you’re going to get scores of 230-240, and if we keep playing that brand of cricket, we’ll be hard to beat.
“In this format, you do get a few wobbles here and there, but that’s part and parcel of it.”
After a hit-and-miss start to the competition, which brought a win, a defeat, a tie and a no-result, Yorkshire have hit their straps with successive home wins against Birmingham Bears and Worcestershire.
Another victory tonight would keep them well on course for the knockout stages at the halfway point of the 14-match group campaign, which continues with the return fixture against Birmingham Bears at Edgbaston on Friday night.
Yorkshire squad versus Durham (from): Bresnan (capt), Carver, Fisher, Handscomb, Kohler-Cadmore, Leaning, Lyth, Marsh, Patterson, Rafiq, Rashid, Wainman, Willey.