MARTYN MOXON is warning that Yorkshire cannot afford to take Division One new boys Northamptonshire lightly.
The county’s director of cricket believes they are a potential banana skin in the game that starts at Headingley tomorrow.
Yorkshire’s opening home match in this year’s County Championship comes against last season’s Second Division runners-up.
Although Yorkshire go into the game as clear favourites, Moxon is conscious of the threat the visitors pose. “They had a great season last year in all forms of the game. They got promoted and won the Twenty20 Cup and will be difficult to beat.
“There is a lot of talent among their players and they will relish coming to Headingley hoping for an upset. We will need to work hard to get a victory.”
Moxon’s comments are backed up by Northamptonshire’s brave performance in their first game back in Division One.
They held out for a draw at home to champions Durham as their last-wicket pair of Rob Newton and Muhammad Azharullah batted out the final nine overs.
“They are a strong unit and they showed that against Durham,” said Moxon. “They’ll take great heart from their performance and the way they hung on to get a draw against the odds.
“In that situation, when you’re battling against it and for the last two players to survive when Durham are throwing everything at you, it’s testament to their resolve. It will kind of feel like a moral victory.”
Yorkshire also go into this game on the back of a draw in their opening match. Moxon’s men were involved in a high-scoring stalemate against Somerset at Taunton on a typically lifeless County Ground pitch.
After being put into bat, Yorkshire scored 450, Adil Rashid making 108, Adam Lyth 85, Gary Ballance 77 and Andrew Hodd 55. The home team replied with 553 – Liam Plunkett 4-117 – before Yorkshire closed out the match on 193-4, Kane Williamson hitting 57 not out and Lyth 54.
“We were pretty pleased with the effort shown and it was a good, solid start to the season,” said Moxon. “Having been put into bat, to get 450 in the first innings was pleasing, and the contributions of Adam Lyth with the bat and Adil Rashid in scoring the first hundred of the season were excellent.
“I was impressed with Andrew Hodd’s performance with the gloves and his efforts with the bat, too, and four lads getting fifty-plus was good.
“From a bowling point of view, it was really difficult for our attack. The pitch flattened out and margins for error were very small. The lads stuck to the task really well and that was the pleasing thing. To field for 150 overs, the energy and effort were there throughout and that was good to see.”
As anyone present at Taunton would testify, the cricket can only get better and the weather can only get worse, with the game played out in glorious sunshine.
Hopes of a positive result were ruined by the pitch, with Somerset preparing a flat one and packing their side with batsmen.
There should be more in the surface for the bowlers at Headingley, where the weather forecast is somewhat indifferent. Moxon concedes the Taunton pitch did not encourage result-cricket but feels the weather provided mitigation.
“I think it was just a case of the weather at Taunton, which was so good for April that it meant the pitch dried out very quickly and became batsman-friendly,” he said. “I’d be very surprised if we see pitches of that nature for the rest of the season.
“At Headingley, all we want is pace and carry from our pitches, and that is what our groundsman, Andy Fogarty, is trying to achieve.
“If a batsman gets a genuine edge and it carries through to the slips, that’s all we want, and we feel that if we have that pace in them then we will get results on our patch.”
Yorkshire have named an unchanged side for a game they ideally need to win to keep pace with the early challengers, particularly as their subsequent two fixtures are at Middlesex and Durham.
They are again without Tim Bresnan, whom they do not expect to feature until early May after his winter with England.
Jonny Bairstow, who broke a finger in a three-day practice game against Northamptonshire earlier this month, is making good progress, while Joe Root has started to net against seam bowling as opposed to just spin bowling, having earmarked his return for the match at Middlesex starting a week tomorrow.
Preview: Page 8.