ANDREW GALE has turned up the heat ahead of tomorrow’s County Championship title showdown at Scarborough by insisting: “It’s Essex’s Championship to lose.”
The Yorkshire first-team coach said that the pressure is all on the leaders going into the game at North Marine Road and that “we’ve seen teams choke before”.
All we can do is go about our business and try and get back to playing the cricket that we know we can play, and then see what happens. We need to concentrate on getting back to scoring heavy runs, and that will allow our bowlers to be successful.Andrew Gale
Fourth-placed Yorkshire are 38 points behind the side coached by ex-Yorkshire players Chris Silverwood and Anthony McGrath, who have led last year’s Second Division champions to the summit with five wins and three draws from eight matches.
Yorkshire, who have played one game more, play the return fixture at Chelmsford in the final week of the season, with matches against Middlesex and Warwickshire at home and Surrey away sandwiched in between.
As he looked forward to the game at Scarborough, Gale said: “It’s Essex’s Championship to lose. The pressure is all on them.
“We’ve been there before and we’ve handled that pressure. It’s massive pressure for them, and we’ve seen teams choke before.
“All we can do is go about our business and try and get back to playing the cricket that we know we can play, and then see what happens. We need to concentrate on getting back to scoring heavy runs, and that will allow our bowlers to be successful.”
Before the break for the T20 Blast, Yorkshire suffered their third defeat in nine Championship games this summer when they lost by 179 runs to Somerset at Scarborough.
It followed a rain-ruined pink ball match against Surrey at Headingley and an innings defeat against Middlesex at Lord’s, with Gale’s men playing catch-up as they chase their third title in four years.
That target is clearly going to be difficult and Yorkshire also have injury concerns, with captain Gary Ballance recovering from a broken finger and overseas batsman Shaun Marsh out with concussion, while pace bowler Liam Plunkett has been struggling with a tweaked hamstring.
Gale said that Yorkshire are not even thinking about winning the Championship at this stage –merely focusing on doing the basics properly.
“We’re not even going to speak about that (winning the title),” he said.
“We’re in a position now where it’s up against us, but all I’m interested in is us getting back to playing our best cricket now in the four-day stuff.
“I wouldn’t say that the wheels were off going into the break for T20, but we weren’t playing anywhere near to the potential that we could have been.
“It was frustrating and we needed something to break that cycle, so T20 came at the right time for us.”
Gale’s comments were echoed by director of cricket Martyn Moxon, who agreed that the main focus at present is simply on playing well.
Moxon believes that Essex’s challenge will be to maintain their form in the absence of England batsmen Alastair Cook and Tom Westley, with the Test matches coming thick and fast.
“They’ve played some very good cricket and it will be interesting to see how they cope without Westley and Cook now,” he said.
“That will be their challenge – whether the other players who come in can reproduce their runs – but Essex have got two good Yorkshiremen in charge of the team, so I’m sure they will guide them in the right way.
“As for ourselves, all myself and Galey are looking for is for us to play to our capabilities because, by and large, we haven’t quite hit our straps in the Championship this year.
“So I think rather than worrying about how many games we’ve got to win, or whatever, it’s about us really getting back to doing our processes well and playing to our capabilities, and then, in our opinion, we will win games.”
To do that, Moxon believes that Yorkshire must perform more consistently with the bat, which has been an Achilles heel for them even through an era of consistent success.
Yorkshire’s top-order has not fired on all cylinders for some time and the club have often been indebted to a bowling attack of international quality.
“We’ve got to get the confidence back in the batting first and foremost,” he added.
“That’s the biggest area that we need to try and improve.
“The lads are working hard and we’re doing a lot of talking on the mental aspect of the batting, and just getting the lads to try and trust their game and work really hard to earn the right to score runs.
“We know that if we get scores on the board, we’ve got the bowling attack to bowl sides out, and with us still having to play Essex twice it’s in our hands and up to us to perform as well as we can.”
Yorkshire (from): Bresnan (captain), Brook, Brooks, Coad, Hodd, Kohler-Cadmore, Leaning, Lees, Lyth, Patterson, Rashid, Sidebottom.