Yorkshire eye Essex scalp in bid to beat the drop
ANDREW GALE has admitted that it would have been a tall order for Yorkshire to go to county champions Essex needing a victory to preserve their First Division status.
Gale takes his side to Chelmsford for the final match of the season, starting tomorrow, with Yorkshire needing only a maximum of six points to guarantee their survival.
With eight bonus points on offer from each match (five batting and three bowling), Yorkshire could lose and still stay up, while the number of points they require will decrease with any point that second-bottom Somerset fail to take against Middlesex at Taunton.
Yorkshire’s two-wicket win over bottom club Warwickshire at Headingley on Friday means that they would not have to potentially beat the champions and has all but made them secure, although first-team coach Gale is taking nothing for granted as he aims to finish the season on a high.
“We’re not home and dry yet but it would have been big pressure if we’d had to go to Essex and win,” he said.
“To go to the champions and win, with the way that they’ve been playing this year, would have been a very tough ask.
“We still want to win, of course, and to continue the good work of recent weeks.
“We’ll be going all out to try and play the cricket that we’ve been playing recently and to come away with a positive result.”
Bizarrely, given that they are not yet mathematically safe, Yorkshire could finish as high as second if they inflict Essex’s first defeat of the season.
The leaders have won nine and drawn four of their 13 matches and are 69 points clear of second-placed Surrey.
Yorkshire, in fourth place, are 14 points behind Surrey, who take on third-placed Lancashire at Old Trafford this week, and 18 points above endangered Somerset.
Middlesex and Hampshire are also in the relegation mix, with only the top three sides mathematically safe.
Essex have been the standout side by a distance this year, possessing the only unbeaten record in either division. They thrashed Yorkshire inside two days at Scarborough last month on their way to a first Championship title for 25 years.
Coached by former Yorkshire players Chris Silverwood and Anthony McGrath, Essex have triumphed despite only winning promotion last season. Gale sees similarities between Essex this year and Yorkshire’s title-winning sides of 2014 and 2015.
“At the start of the year, you probably wouldn’t have given them a sniff (of winning the title),” he said. “But you see the way that they’ve performed, and there’s a lot of correlation with the way that we performed in our Championship-winning years.
“In (Jamie) Porter, they’ve got a Jack Brooks who takes 60 wickets a year and bowls wicket-taking balls. And whereas we had Lees and Lyth at the top of the batting order, they had Browne and Cook at the start of the year and then Chopra.
“They’ve got a good spin bowler in (Simon) Harmer, while Rash (Adil Rashid) performed well for us when we won the Championship.
“So you can draw a lot of parallels really with the way that they’re playing, and they also look like they’ve got great togetherness.”
Gale paid tribute to Silverwood and McGrath, who previously gave Yorkshire distinguished service.
He believes that their characters as well as their coaching credentials have helped to mastermind Essex’s success.
“I’m very pleased for Chris Silverwood and Anthony McGrath,” said Gale.
“I’m very close to Mags and have been in touch with him, and he and Silvers have done a really good job.
“I know that both of them will have brought a lot of fun to the Essex environment because they’re pretty laid-back guys.
“They’ve brought the best out of the Essex players and the club have had a fantastic year.”
After a contrastingly difficult year at Headingley, Yorkshire could still better or equal last season’s third-placed finish despite not having performed as well.
They have hit back in spirited fashion after losing to Essex at North Marine Road, drawing with Middlesex and Surrey before defeating Warwickshire to ease their relegation fears.
“I feel like we’ve played some really good cricket over the last three weeks now,” said Gale.
“In many ways, it’s a frustration, because had we played like that for the majority of the year, we wouldn’t be where we are now.
“It is what it is, but we’ve got to go to Chelmsford and perform once again.
“Beating Warwickshire was a massive win, and, hopefully, we can build on that.”
Yorkshire named Ryan Sidebottom in a 14-man squad for what would be his final appearance in first-class cricket.
However, he has been struggling with a quad injury that kept him out of the Warwickshire match.