MARTYN MOXON has ruled out the possibility of any team running away with this season’s County Championship and predicted that clubs will continue to pinch points off each other.
The Yorkshire director of cricket said he did not expect any side to surge ahead in the race for the title and believes it will be a nip-and-tuck affair.
As fourth-place Yorkshire prepare to take on leaders Warwickshire at Headingley tomorrow, with just nine points separating them, Moxon stated his belief that no team will pull away from the pack.
“I don’t see any team running away with the division this year,” he said.
“I think it will be a case of people beating each other throughout the summer.
“I think it’s going to be that tight, and it’s almost impossible to predict a winner.
“There are very few points between the top eight teams, and it’s shaping up to be a cracking season.”
Twenty-six points separate Warwickshire from eighth-placed Durham, although the defending champions have a game in hand.
Only Northamptonshire appear out of the reckoning; they have shown little in their three games so far to suggest they are capable of winning the league.
The same cannot be said of Warwickshire, who have won two of their opening four fixtures.
Their latest victory, by an innings and 47 runs against Middlesex, highlighted what Moxon is saying, with Middlesex having themselves chased 472 to beat Yorkshire the previous week.
“The results so far have shown how competitive the league is,” said Moxon.
“I think we’re shaping up well, but there are a lot of good teams around so we can’t afford to take anything for granted.
“This is another big game for us; it will be the fifth week on the bounce of Championship cricket, so it’s been a tough start to the season physically as well as mentally.
“We’re playing the top of the league and, if we put in a good performance against them, we’ll be right up there.”
Yorkshire are set to field arguably their strongest possible side, with all of their England players available.
Joe Root and Gary Ballance return from one-day international duty, with opening batsman Alex Lees likely to make way for Root.
Wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd is the other man expected to miss out from the side that drew with Durham, with Jonny Bairstow –who played in that game as a batsman only in his first outing after a broken finger – poised to reclaim the gloves.
“We’ve got a bit of a selection headache,” said Moxon.
“But, as I always say, it’s a nice problem to have.
“We haven’t made any decisions yet, but whoever misses out will be unlucky.
“It just shows the strength we’ve got in our squad.”
Moxon’s task – and that of captain Andrew Gale and first-team coach Jason Gillespie – is made harder by the fact everyone has chipped in so far.
It explains why Yorkshire have made a good start to the season – one that has convinced Moxon they will be there or thereabouts come summer’s end.
“I think we’ve shown enough in the first quarter of the season to say we’re going to be in the mix,” he said.
“If you’re going to win things, you’ve got to have a squad all contributing at some point, and, touch wood, we’ve got that at the moment.
“The lads are in good form and we’re playing some good cricket, apart from that unusual result at Lord’s.
“If you take that out, we’ve played some really good stuff.”
One of the most notable aspects of Yorkshire’s early-season work has been their consistency with the bat.
In each of their five first-class games so far, they have registered a score of 400-plus.
“Getting big scores is something we’ve been working on and talking about,” said Moxon.
“If you get big scores in the first innings in particular, you can drive the game, and we feel that with the attack we’ve got that can only help us win games.
“So far, the batsmen have really applied themselves well.
“I thought we batted as well at Durham in our last match as I’ve seen us bat for quite some time.”
Moxon was pleased with the performance at the Riverside, where Yorkshire dominated the match.
After scoring 589-8 declared, Yorkshire bowled out their opponents for 388 and, after enforcing the follow-on, had them 100-4 when stumps were drawn.
“We said before that game that it was going to be a scrap and we were equal to the task,” said Moxon.
“As I say, I thought the batting was superb and, apart from dropping a couple of catches, I thought we did pretty much all we could in the field as well.
“The most pleasing thing was the way we responded to the defeat at Lord’s, which could have knocked our confidence a bit.
“But the lads showed the skill and character they possess.”