ANDREW GALE has told his Yorkshire players they must “treat every game like a cup final” if they are to reach the knockout stages of the T20 Blast.
Yorkshire’s hopes of qualifying for the last eight suffered another setback yesterday when they lost by six wickets to champions Birmingham.
It was Yorkshire’s fourth defeat in seven matches and left them third-bottom of the North Group.
“We’ve got to treat every game like a cup final now,” said Gale, whose team looked to have turned the corner with a comprehensive victory against Notts on Friday night.
“We’re by no means out of it - we’re only halfway through the group stage – but we’ve got to start finding some consistency.
“If we can win four or five of our last seven games, we should be in a good place to qualify.
“But we need to put a run of wins together soon; otherwise, we’ll be out of it.”
Yorkshire effectively lost this match when they slipped to 36-4 inside the first six overs after winning the toss.
Glenn Maxwell – who starred with an unbeaten 92 on Friday – was one of the early casualties as he came back down to earth with a second-ball duck.
Jack Leaning top-scored with a T20 career-best 45 and Aaron Finch contributed 30, but Yorkshire only managed a below-par 132-7.
It proved insufficient runs for the bowlers to defend, Tim Ambrose (46) and Will Porterfield (42) helping Birmingham to victory with eight balls to spare.
“It’s so frustrating,” said Gale. “We had the complete performance on Friday night and everybody’s confidence was lifted.
“Then, we turn up here, and we’re banging our head against a brick wall again.
“At the moment, it seems to be a case of one step forward, two steps back.”
Gale has largely been pleased with Yorkshire’s batting in this year’s competition, but yesterday he admitted it let them down.
The captain was the first to fall when he was caught behind off Rikki Clarke in the third over flashing at a ball outside off stump.
Andrew Hodd departed in the next over when he miscued the former Yorkshire pace bowler Oliver Hannon-Dalby to Clarke at mid-on.
Alex Lees then perished in the sixth over when he pushed forward to the medium-pace of Recordo Gordon and was caught behind.
When Maxwell went two balls later, top-edging Gordon to Laurie Evans at deep square-leg, Yorkshire’s top-order had been blown away.
Finch and Leaning steadied things by adding 43 for the fifth wicket in eight overs before Finch chopped on to leg-spinner Josh Poysden.
Leaning then added 39 with Tim Bresnan, who chipped in with 16 before edging behind off Hannon-Dalby.
Leaning clubbed a couple of leg-side sixes during the course of his 44-ball innings, and Rich Pyrah struck an unbeaten 13 at the end.
But Yorkshire managed only 12 boundaries in total and failed to score from 53 of the 120 deliveries they faced.
“We never really got going with the bat,” said Gale, whose side return to T20 action on Friday against Leicestershire at Grace Road.
“I was disappointed with the way we went about it, particularly considering the way we’d batted in the competition to date.
“We just never got any momentum. I felt 160, 165 was going to be par on that wicket, but we lost four wickets in the powerplay and were chasing the game from there.
“What particularly disappointed me was that, from there, we rather scraped our way to 130 when I would rather us have got bowled out for 80 trying to get to 160 to stand half a chance.”
The quality of the pitch took Gale by surprise and was not the ideal T20 surface.
It was a little bit sticky – not unlike the day itself, which was primarily overcast – and timing the ball was not straightforward.
“I must admit it played quite differently to how I thought,” said Gale. It looked an absolute belter at the toss – rock hard.
“But when the pace was off the ball, it was quite hard to score.
“Unfortunately, we never found the pace of the pitch to put a decent innings together.”
After their travails with the bat, Yorkshire’s spirits were lifted when Birmingham’s reply began in similarly stuttering fashion.
Ian Bell was bowled trying to play a curious back foot shot against Maxwell in the opening over, and Maxwell’s off spin did the trick again in the third over when he had Varun Chopra caught by Finch at mid-off as the hosts slipped to 15-2.
But Porterfield found fluency with a handful of off-side boundaries off Bresnan, and the Irishman had done a good deal of damage by the time he was third out at 66, caught by Leaning at deep mid-wicket off James Middlebrook.
The fourth wicket did not fall until the scores were level, Steve Patterson bowling Ambrose.
It was left to Clarke to finish the job, Evans ending unbeaten on 32 as Yorkshire were left to lick their wounds.