JACK BROOKS is backing Yorkshire’s batsmen to rack up the runs and provide the firepower that was missing last summer as the club today embark on their attempt to win the NatWest T20 Blast.
Yorkshire take on Brooks’s former county and last year’s winners Northamptonshire at Headingley (5.30pm start) in the first of 14 group games in the revamped competition.
Last year, Yorkshire’s batting consistently let them down as they won only two of 10 group matches and finished rock-bottom of the North Division.
Their average total was 130 and their highest 152-6 at home to Lancashire in a thrilling tie at Leeds.
But with England stars Joe Root, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan available for tonight’s game, and with New Zealand international Kane Williamson on board and Australian big-hitter Aaron Finch shortly to arrive, Brooks believes Yorkshire can post the match-winning scores that will play into the hands of himself and his fellow bowlers.
“More often than not, our bowling and fielding last year were really good but we didn’t get the scores we could defend,” said Brooks. “It’s difficult to defend 120, 130, 140 every game, and we perhaps lacked a couple of powerful one-day hitters in there, especially with losing guys to the England team.
“But this year, with Kane and Finchy around, and with Rooty and Bluey (Bairstow) perhaps around a bit more too, I think it’s going to be different.
“If they come off, it’s going to be pretty brutal on the opposition.”
Yorkshire were heavily reliant last year on Ballance, who was the only man to pass 200 runs (269 at 29.88).
Yorkshire recorded more dot-balls than any other team (balls from which no runs are scored) and their boundary count was low.
“Not enough boundaries and too many dot balls is a pretty bad formula,” conceded Brooks. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the consistency and we relied a lot on Gary.
“But Finchy, of course, is a wonderful addition and everyone is genuinely excited about what we’re going to see from him.
“He’s going to win games off his own back; it’s just a case of how many.”
Finch is unavailable tonight and for next Friday’s trip to Warwickshire due to his involvement with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the Indian Premier League.
Depending on Sunrisers’ progress, it is expected he will make his Yorkshire debut at home to Derbyshire on May 30 or away to Lancashire on June 6.
Williamson is another who gives Yorkshire a different dimension this year. The 23-year-old did not play in the Twenty20 last time as he only joined towards the end of the campaign.
“I know all the lads are really confident and excited about this year’s competition,” said Brooks, who topped Yorkshire’s Twenty20 averages last summer with 13 wickets at 14.53.
“We’ve got all our England lads available for the first game and if we can start the comp well and get on a roll, I think we can do really well. In my opinion, we should just go out there and relax and play exciting cricket.
“I’d like to think we’re an exciting team to watch in all forms of the game; we’ve got some seriously talented, exciting young players, and when you throw in a couple of old-timers and overseas players as well, plus a fantastic captain, we’ve got a great formula.”
Brooks was pleased with his form last year in a format that is traditionally challenging for bowlers. He took a career-best 5-21 in the home game against Leicestershire and 4-21 in the home match against Derbyshire.
“I’ve always been a momentum bowler,” he said. “I don’t know why, but if I get an early wicket or two, I get excited and pumped up and seem to bowl better areas.
“I was flying early on in the comp and bowling a lot of dots, which is one of the main roles if you’re bowling up front.
“I think I was one of the highest dot bowlers in the country –third in the list, or something like that – and I was quite happy with my form, although on a couple of occasions I got taken down big time.”
Brooks will be keen to do well against the county he left for Yorkshire in 2012.
Northamptonshire’s success last year also showed the unpredictable nature of T20 cricket.
“Northants weren’t expecting to win it last year – I know that from speaking to them,” said Brooks.
“It was a massive shock and bonus but, by the end of the comp, you could see that they were the best team and that everyone knew their roles.
“No-one would have fancied them and it shows that anyone can win it if they get on a roll.
“I was really happy for the Northants’ guys but my future is here; coming to Yorkshire was the right career choice and I love it.”
Yorkshire squad to face Northamptonshire Steelbacks: Jonathan Bairstow, Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Jack Brooks, Andrew Gale (capt), Andrew Hodd, Adam Lyth, Liam Plunkett, Richard Pyrah, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Ryan Sidebottom, Kane Williamson.