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Yorkshire welcome chance of early tests against champions Essex and former captain McGrath

HELLO AGAIN: Essex head coach Anthony McGrath will return to former club Yorkshire in April with the 2017 champions. Paicture courtesy of Nick Wood/Unshaken Photography.
HELLO AGAIN: Essex head coach Anthony McGrath will return to former club Yorkshire in April with the 2017 champions. Paicture courtesy of Nick Wood/Unshaken Photography.
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YORKSHIRE first team coach Andrew Gale is hoping that his men can catch Essex cold after they were pitted against the champions twice in their opening four games in next year’s County Championship.

Gale believes it could be a good time to face the club led by his ex-Yorkshire team-mate Anthony McGrath, who recently took over as Essex head coach in place of another former Yorkshire player in Chris Silverwood, who has been appointed England’s new bowling coach.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.

The 2018 fixtures, announced yesterday, see Yorkshire start their Championship campaign against Essex at Emerald Headingley from April 13.

And after games against newly-promoted Notts at Headingley and Somerset at Taunton, they travel to Essex for the re-match at Chelmsford, where they were soundly thumped in the final fixture of last season before watching the jubilant hosts parade the trophy.

Yorkshire, who also lost to Essex at Scarborough inside two days, are desperate to gain revenge after finishing a flattering fourth in Division One last season – 100 points behind Essex and only two points above the relegation zone.

The quick-fire double-header against McGrath’s troops represents a challenging start, although Yorkshire know from experience that it is not always easy for defending champions to back-up their efforts of the previous year, and they are optimistic they can take advantage.

I was sort of expecting it,” he quipped. “It feels like a long time since I left Yorkshire already, and the first time I went back with Essex last season to Scarborough, we had a good win.

Former Yorkshire captain Anthony McGrath

“It will be a good test playing against the champions Essex first up,” said Gale.

“You want to test yourself and, if there’s ever a time to play Essex –before they get on some sort of run like they did last year – this could be it.

“The fixtures look pretty good and, with two home games in the Championship to start with, we can make a good, solid start.

“We’ve made Headingley a bit of a fortress in previous years, so it’s important we get out of the blocks well.”

AIMING HIGH: Martyn Moxon and Andrew Gale . Picture: Bruce Rollinson

AIMING HIGH: Martyn Moxon and Andrew Gale . Picture: Bruce Rollinson

McGrath, who played for Yorkshire from 1995 to 2012, joined Essex as Silverwood’s assistant early last year.

Like Gale, he is one of the game’s emerging coaches and is relishing the early match-ups with his old club.

“I was sort of expecting it,” he quipped. “It feels like a long time since I left Yorkshire already, and the first time I went back with Essex last season to Scarborough, we had a good win.

“It’s a good fixture to get first because Yorkshire will give us a nice marker of where we’re at.

“We’ve got a tough start with Lancashire at home, Hampshire away and then the return match against Yorkshire, so we’ll have plenty of focus in our preparations.”

Inevitably, much interest centres on Yorkshire’s two Championship games at Scarborough, a popular destination for the county’s followers.

Surrey and Worcestershire are the opponents this year, while Scarborough also stages an Under-19 Test and ODI against South Africa in July and a Yorkshire Diamonds women’s game in August.

“We love going to Scarborough, and we’ve got some wrongs to put right,” said Gale.

“It’s been a massive success for us in the last five years and we’ve had a tremendous record there, but, last year, we lost both games, so it’s something we want to put right.

“We want to go there and play the brand of cricket that we like to play and put on a good show.”

Gale is also relishing the fixtures with arch-rivals Lancashire.

Yorkshire travel to Old Trafford in the Championship in late July before facing Lancashire at Headingley in mid-September.

“You always look for the Roses matches too, and they come a little later in 2018,” he said.

“These are all fixtures that the players get excited about.”

As with last season, each of the 18 counties will play one pink-ball day-night Championship match, designed to help players gain experience for the international stage.

Unlike last season, the nine games in question will be spread over four rounds, with Yorkshire’s pink-ball fixture taking place at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl in late June.

Once again, Yorkshire play eight games in the Royal London Cup and 14 in the NatWest T20 Blast as they target their first one-day silverware since 2002.

Next summer, the T20 Roses games are at Old Trafford on Friday July 20 and at Emerald Headingley on Thursday August 9.

As usual, the fixture list is a major operation of planning and cramming, with Yorkshire chief executive Mark Arthur outlining some of the problems faced.

“Next year, Leeds is hosting three major events during the cricket season: The Tour de Yorkshire, the Leeds Half Marathon and the World Triathlon Series,” he said.

“Obviously, with all the road closures, we’ve had to ask the ECB not to schedule any matches over those weekends which span April and May.

“This has caused a knock-on effect as to when we can schedule the five Championship matches at Emerald Headingley next year, and consequently there are two in April, two in September and one at the end of August.”