QUESTION: What have Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Worcestershire got in common?
Answer: They are the only counties never to have reached a Twenty20 finals day.
It is an unwanted record and, in Yorkshire’s case, an unacceptable one.
For the self-styled Manchester United of cricket never to have reached the last four is a dismal statistic; the equivalent, if you will, of the Old Trafford club never having reached the last four of the FA Cup.
Of course, the beauty of Twenty20 cricket – and I use the word “beauty” lightly – is that pretty much any team can win the competition.
Granted, not Yorkshire, Derbyshire or Worcestershire thus far, but even clubs that might be considered hopeless in “proper” cricket have the ability to bring home the bacon, for the format has always been something of a leveller.
Leicestershire, for example, are so bad in Championship cricket that Manchester United could probably do better if they entered.
Yet the men from Grace Road are the only county to have won the Twenty20 Cup three times, an achievement at odds with their four-day record.
Yorkshire, who begin their Twenty20 campaign on Friday against Durham at Headingley Carnegie, have only two quarter-final appearances to their name.
In 2006, they lost to Essex and, in 2007, they went down to Sussex. Technically, Yorkshire also reached the quarters in 2008 only to be eliminated due to an administrative howler.
Their last-eight tie against Durham at Chester-le-Street was dramatically abandoned just moments before the start when it emerged Yorkshire had fielded an unregistered player in Azeem Rafiq in their final group game.
Yorkshire will be seeking a significant improvement on last year’s showing, when they finished sixth out of nine in the North Group after six wins, seven defeats and three no-results.
The tournament has now been reduced in size; instead of two groups of nine and 16 group games, there are three groups of six, with counties playing five matches at home and five away.
The top two teams in each group qualify for the semi-finals, along with the two-best third-placed sides.
It is how the format used to be and has reduced the number of meaningless matches.
Inevitably, Yorkshire believe they can rectify their record in Twenty20 and that this will finally be their year. But are there grounds for genuine optimism?
Individually and collectively, they will certainly have to raise their game, for whereas last year Leicestershire had three batsmen in the top 10 of the national averages (Wayne White 54.50), Andrew McDonald (53.09) and James Taylor (42.12), Yorkshire had only one in the top 30 in Andrew Gale, who finished 30th with an average of 32.15.
Yorkshire’s next best average was the 25.66 of Joe Sayers, who came 69th on the national list.
Although such contrasts are undoubtedly concerning, encouragement is provided this year in the form of overseas players Mitchell Starc and David Miller, whom Yorkshire hope will make the key difference.
In addition, Gary Ballance has developed into a batsman of the highest stature, one capable of clearing the rope in the game’s shortest form, while Joe Root is another young batsman increasingly accomplished in one-day cricket.
Throw in spin twins Azeem Rafiq and Adil Rashid, along with an athletic fielding side, and Yorkshire would look to have most bases covered.
The club have already proved what they can do by winning the Barbados Twenty20 Cup in pre-season, which featured several county sides, so there is no doubt – on paper at least – that the ability is there, although the time has come for Yorkshire to deliver.