THE BOOKMAKERS’ odds are perhaps the best guide.
Typical prices to win the County Championship put leaders Essex at 8-11, second-placed Somerset at 11-10 and third-placed Yorkshire at 33-1.
With three rounds of matches left, the gap between Essex and Yorkshire stands at 37 points – a pretty considerable gap heightened by the uncertain weather at this time of year.
As such odds would suggest, Yorkshire are an outside bet for the title going into Tuesday’s fixture against Somerset at Taunton, but considering that they have the opportunity to take points off a Somerset team who are 35 points above them, and with Somerset playing Essex in the final round, Yorkshire have not given up hope of pulling off a heist.
“It’s going to be a tall order to win it,” admitted director of cricket Martyn Moxon. “At the same time, it’s in our hands to a certain extent in that we play Somerset and, if we can beat them and Essex happen to lose their game this week (away to Warwickshire), it’s back in the mix because Somerset and Essex play each other last game of the season.
“Clearly, we have to win our remaining games and we need other results to go our way. It’s not impossible, but everything has to go for us and fall into place.”
Clearly, we have to win our remaining games and we need other results to go our way. It’s not impossible, but everything has to go for us and fall into place.Martyn Moxon
As their challenge continues in the south-west, Yorkshire have little to lose and everything to gain.
No one really expects them to win it from here and, unless the wheels come off totally this week, and in the last two matches against Kent at Headingley and Warwickshire at Edgbaston, they will have had a good summer in four-day cricket.
“There’s been some positive signs in our Championship play this season,” said Moxon, with Yorkshire having shown progress after successive relegation battles.
“We’re not 100 per cent where we need to be and there’s still areas we need to improve on.
“However, I think there’s been some positive signs that hopefully we can build on, and we can go into next season with renewed optimism, I think.
“Ultimately, it’s cliches but we can’t look too far ahead for the rest of this season. We have to try and beat Somerset and take it from there.”
Yorkshire’s chances could depend heavily on Keshav Maharaj, the South African left-arm spinner who makes his final appearance as the club’s overseas player.
Maharaj took 11 wickets at Taunton last year playing for Lancashire and he has captured 28 wickets and scored 235 runs for Yorkshire in four Championship matches.
“Kesh has been brilliant for us,” said Moxon. “He’s put together some match-winning performances and been a tremendous addition to our squad.”
Ajaz Patel, the New Zealand left-arm spinner, will take over as overseas player for the final two games, highlighting that Yorkshire have not yet given up hope of the crown.
Patel, 30, is viewed as a like-for-like replacement and comes highly recommended from a New Zealand camp that features former Yorkshire players Kane Williamson and Jeet Ravel.
Just as Maharaj looks to sign off in style, so Yorkshire will be looking for a repeat of their performance against Somerset at Headingley in July.
It was their best display of the season as they won by an innings and 73 runs, a classic four-day exhibition in which they scored big runs in their first innings (520, including three players making hundreds) and then bowled Somerset out for 196 and 251, Maharaj taking seven wickets in the first innings and ten in the match.
“It was our best win of the season,” said Moxon. “To get 520 and three players to get a hundred; that’s your perfect scenario really.
“It showed what we’re capable of, and hopefully we can put in a performance that can beat them on their own patch, which would really be an outstanding achievement.
“I think in Championship cricket now we’ve got a confidence, we’ve got a belief back that we can win games of four-day cricket and we know how we can win them, and it all comes down to a lot of hard work.
“Our recent victories in the competition have come from the back of really hard work and playing the long game and having that patience to put a total on the board, and then to do what it takes to bowl teams out twice.”
Yorkshire have named a 14-man squad that includes the fit-again Matthew Fisher and off-spinner Jack Shutt.
Yorkshire squad to face Somerset: Ballance, Bresnan, Brook, Coad, Fisher, Fraine, Kohler-Cadmore, Leaning, Lyth, Maharaj, Olivier, Shutt, Patterson (captain), Tattersall.