Inconsistency has plagued Yorkshire’s quest to achieve a three-peat of championship crowns in 2016, as they continue to cling on to their position in the middle of the division one table by the skin of their teeth.
They say a strong Yorkshire makes for a strong England. While many whisper sceptically behind their hands, condemning any such theory, the burden of the old cliché – dated as it might be - weighs heavy on the shoulders of the playing group this season.
We’ve been reminded during this unsunny summer that sheer weight of expectations is a significant encumbrance not to be brushed aside. Before a ball had been bowled in anger during April, we were told in no uncertain terms that there was no stopping the might of Yorkshire, who were bound for yet another year of unbridled successes.
Au contraire. How four months, a coin toss and a few unanticipated departures can unhinge a perfectly architected yellow brick road. It now appears Yorkshire’s deep-seated winning culture has inexplicably gone to the dogs - or at the very least - hit a significant bump in a long and winding road.
Yorkshire are not directionless, but they are at this stage in a marathon season rooted to the spot on the Championship table with a formidable run home – one that includes a visit to Lord’s and Old Trafford. With Root, Balance, Bairstow and Rashid all away on England duty until at least the final round, it is left to a patchwork side to pick up the slack that flagged somewhere around mid-May.
Had it not been for some pesky South-East weather intervening on a strong Yorkshire performance against Surrey at the Oval, they might well have been able to add a win to their season tally of 116, potentially positioning them inside the top 4. But there’s no point dwelling at this point on what could have been.
All is far from lost for Yorkshire though. While they face a torrid time dealing with injury that constantly attempts to access permanent residency in the Yorkshire ranks, the likes of Leaning, Hodd and Rhodes will be asked to step up to the plate and toe the line through August and September for the defending champions.
The new toss regulations appear to have taken their toll on Yorkshire’s bowling, while their batting, led by messiah’s Lyth and Lees, consistently fluctuates between two extremes - breathtakingly brilliant and unequivocally vulnerable. A proclivity to inspire and frustrate fans in the same session is an inconsistency that must be addressed. Too often have Bresnan and Plunkett been called on to do the heavy lifting down the bottom of the order.
Their bowling performances have laid the foundations for their successes in years gone by, but the scrapping of the coin toss this season has seen Yorkshire struggle to win outright. This issue is not isolated, it is very much a competition wide epidemic brought about by flat, lifeless wickets prepared in the knowledge that the opposition side mustn’t profit from their decision on the first morning. So much so that the toss has turned into a game of Russian roulette for the foolhardy.
Yorkshire’s bowlers have toiled for days on end at stages this season, powerless to arrest fluent strokeplay, as batsmen fill their boots and plunder runs to all parts of the ground with ease. Their only reprieve from a 150-over graft, a sporting declaration from the opposition captain.
It should come as no surprise then to find that Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale was among the first to speak his mind on the new toss regulations upon their unveiling in November last year. His statement was brief but insightful: “[no mandatory toss is] Absolute madness”.
Surrey captain Gareth Batty shared a similar sentiment towards the ensuing anarchy of the new toss regulations that saw his team chase leather in the field for 210-overs this week. He too was blunt in his appraisal of the current state of pitches around the country, labelling them - rather crudely I might add - as being “very flat” in nature. This statement may have been somewhat tongue in cheek, though, given that Batty was fresh from a trailblazing game that included an unbeaten hundred and eight wickets.
But I shan’t harp on about these toss regulations any longer.
Yorkshire’s Blast form is bordering on farcical, though, their mad cap style has struggled to bear fruit since even the early days of the Twenty-Twenty Cup. The absence of their England players during the period when the Sri Lankan ODI series was taking place hasn’t helped their cause either.
Any hope of a journey to Edgbaston for finals day now appears bleak, with just a handful of fixtures – and therefore opportunities - remaining in the 2016 edition. But optimism and desire so often prevail in this whimsical game we call cricket. To sneak into the top four and progress beyond the North group stage they must win their final two games, and while they’re at it, muster a genie from a bottle to grant an indelible wish. Very rarely do six wins qualify a side for the quarter-finals.
Yorkshire’s Blast campaign for 2016 has all but met its maker.
Their Royal London One-Day Cup season started in the worst possible fashion, with a big loss to Worcestershire in a television game at Leeds. Since that dreary summer’s day, where their one-day season looked destined to follow suit, Yorkshire’s fortunes have experienced a dramatic revival. Back to back wins have them perched inside the top three and within striking distance of the unbeaten Derbyshire.
A last start rout of rivals Lancashire whose batting innings ended inside 18-overs - only Martin Guptill surpassed single figures - will give them the momentum they require to begin the march towards Lord’s. The RLODC is the one competition they look primed to win, but with the halfway point of the season having only just been reached, a large majority of the plot still remains. I’d be jumping the gun making any bold predictions at this point in the journey.
Written by Jordan Crick (@Cricky_1997)
No other cricket county have won the English domestic Championships more than Yorkshire, who have secured the title an unprecedented 33 times.
The White Rose start the 2016 campaign after back-to-back title winning seasons in 2014 and again in 2015, and the chance to secure a hat-trick of titles looms large for the club from the north of England.
A hat-trick of Championship titles in the modern era will be a huge achievement for England’s most dominant domestic side. They have, however, already achieved this feat four times, going on to win it four years in a row between 1922-1925. The longest streak, however, belongs to Surrey who held the Championship for seven years in a row from 1952 to 1958.
Yorkshire’s last hat-trick of titles was achieved way back in 1968 and after that the most successful club in England endured a long drought, winning the championship just once between 1968 and 2014. That victory came at the beginning of the century in 2001 and there was another 13-year wait before they won in again in 2014.
There can be little argument that over the last two seasons Yorkshire were deserving champions of England. The club lost just two games in the last two seasons. That level of consistency was the key to their success over the last two seasons.
Looking back to 2014, the Yorkshire squad had eight players who had played for England or went on to play for England in the last two years. The White Rose’s success has been rewarded with national selection for the likes of Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, and Gary Balance all of whom have made a name for themselves on the international stage. Indeed, six Yorkshire players featured in the 2015 Ashes victory. It was a true testament of how much the club had moved forward as a team and the players individually. The 2014 team also featured New Zealander Kane Williamson, who has since gone on to captain his country and has been one of the top batsmen in the world over the last two years. Both Joe Root and Kane Williamson have featured in the ICC World Test XI in both 2014 and 2015.
Yorkshire were eventually crowned champions of England in 2014 with a lead of 17 points over Warwickshire who finished second but had won the same number of games as Yorkshire, eight. Adam Lyth finished the campaign as the leading run scorer in the division and went on to open for England in the 2015 Ashes-winning campaign.
The 2015 season, however, was pretty one-sided with Yorkshire running away with it and eventually finishing the year 68 points ahead of second-placed Middlesex.
The campaign showed how the new defending champions were dominant in their trade; their record at home, Headingley, was almost perfect. They won seven of their eight matches there and drawing the other. Warwickshire were the only team to go away with more points than Yorkshire at their headquarters. They ended up with 11 points to the host’s nine in a game that ended as a draw.
The Vikings had not lost a game at Headingley in the season prior to 2015 but had only managed to win half of their games and drawing the rest. It changed in 2015 with the team producing some outstanding performances, notably the one in May in which saw them thump Hampshire by 305 runs. Thanks in part to one of their new international recruits, Cheteshwar Pujara. The Indian batsman had joined the team in 2015 and was part of their squad in the longer formats. Another notable international addition to the squad was the ex-Pakistani skipper Younis Khan who featured during the months of April and May.
Yorkshire begin this season as firm favourites, and some are even tipping them to win the domestic treble. But their captain Andrew Gale knows the task in hand will not be easy, and with so many of their regulars now part of the England squad the captain has backed the youngsters in the team to deliver the goods.
The 32-year-old is not worried about the lack of signings this season, though, with David Willey, the left arm England international the only new recruit. The club have also just retained the services of Kane Williamson for just two months, June and July. The only other international signed this season is Travis Head, the Australian will spend three months with the club from July to September.
"It just says panic stations, really, at this time of the year to go out and sign players," Gale told in one of his interviews with George Dobell for ESPNcricinfo.
"It's not something we want to do at Yorkshire. We back our own players. We put a lot of time and effort into our academy and we have a history of bringing players right though from grassroots to Test cricket and that's the route we will continue to go down.
"We missed six players at the start of last season but we don't see that as a negative. We embrace that. It creates an opportunity for someone else to come into the side. Lads see that opportunity and want to grasp it.
"We think the togetherness of the team and going out with as many Yorkshire men as we can give us an edge. There is a massive togetherness in that dressing room when players see the likes of Matthew Fisher and Will Rhodes grasp that opportunity. It creates a confidence in the young players that they could be the next cab off the rank. We want to continue to do that."
With the likes of Surrey and Lancashire coming up and sides like Warwickshire who are always there or thereabouts in the fight for the top spot, the odds of this season’s title charge being a one horse race are pretty slim, so it promises to be an exciting one.
"We're confident and positive," Gale added. "But we can take nothing for granted. We've won two Championships, but that counts for nothing at the start of the season. But if we win three championships in a row, we'll go down with the legends of Yorkshire cricket."
Writing their names in Yorkshire cricket folklore is a pretty good incentive for the team to go on to fight for the top spot again this season, will they do it? I’ll leave that to you to decide.
Written by Benny Singarajan - Follow him @mis4nthrope
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