Andrew Gale left hoping Yorkshire's seaside visits are not halved

YORKSHIRE captain Andrew Gale said he hopes that Scarborough does not lose one of its two annual fixtures after a cut was announced to the County Championship programme.

Andrew Gale, captain of county champions Yorkshire, does not want a programme change in 2017 to come at a cost to Scarborough (Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire).
Andrew Gale, captain of county champions Yorkshire, does not want a programme change in 2017 to come at a cost to Scarborough (Picture: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire).

The North Marine Road ground is in the firing line after the England and Wales Cricket Board revealed that counties will play 14 games from next year instead of 16.

Under the revamp, which is designed to streamline the domestic structure and make county cricket more sustainable, each club will play one fewer Championship home game.

Yorkshire currently play six home matches at their Headingley headquarters and two at North Marine Road, with the club having already held discussions with Scarborough CC, whose chairman Bill Mustoe admits it is “highly likely” that the ground will lose a Championship match.

Gale, however, does not want that to happen, with Scarborough widely viewed as one of the world’s finest out-grounds and enormously popular with the Yorkshire supporters.

“It’s something that I hope doesn’t happen,” said Gale. “I’ve spoken to Martyn Moxon (Yorkshire’s director of cricket) about it, and I would like to see the two Championship games remain at Scarborough.

“It’s a great ground and we get good results there; our record at Scarborough is fantastic, and people don’t like playing us there. Whether that balances the books is for others to sort out.”

Gale has a strong affinity with the venue, having made his first-class debut there in 2004 and he also scored his maiden first-class hundred there.

Gale averages 52 in first-class cricket at Scarborough, where he has hit five hundreds in 18 games, including a career-best 272 against Notts in 2013.

“From a personal point of view, I’ve got a good record there,” he said. “That’s my ground, if you like, so I’d probably like to play every game there in an ideal world.”

Yorkshire say that a decision on Scarborough will be reached after their next board meeting in April. The club have no wish to take a match from the ground, or even to see the number of Championship games cut.

That reduction in itself will go down badly with the Yorkshire members, many of whom have no appetite for T20, with that tournament now set to be played in a block in July/August, with the 50-over competition moved to the start of the year.

Mustoe, however, appears resigned to the inevitable.

“At the moment, we get two of eight home (Championship) games; it’s highly likely that number would go down to one,” he said. “Maybe we could get a T20 Blast game later in the summer, we’ll have to wait and see.

“We have known that this (the revamped structure) was coming for a while now, and we’ve been working very closely with Yorkshire and the ECB to minimise the impact it has on us.

“Although we are contracted to have 10 days of county cricket (each year), there is a clause for a change of league structure, much like this one.”

Overall, Gale welcomed the changes to the fixture programme, which he feels will improve the quality of cricket. However, he insisted that he is a traditionalist at heart.

“Initially, I was a little bit disappointed,” he said. “I’m a bit of a traditionalist, and I like the 16 Championship games.

“But, on the flip-side, it will give people more opportunities to get rest and the cricket will probably improve for that.

“I know some members will be a little bit disgruntled because they’re going to lose out on one home Championship game. On the flipside, I’d like to think that teams will be putting their better sides out more consistently, so I think from a playing point of view it’s good.”

Gale urged the ECB to be careful with their T20 scheduling, with regular Friday night matches having proved successful last year, and he said he did not want a return to three home games a week, which places a heavy financial burden on supporters.

He added that there had been too many changes to the structure of late.

“What the ECB have to do is get this right over the next two or three years, because we’ve spent far too long chopping and changing formats and scheduling,” said Gale.

“It’s gone on for too long now, and we need to get something that works, because cricket is a hard enough game to follow as it is with all the different formats.”

Moxon believes the revamped structure is a compromise.

“I would have preferred it to have remained 16 Championship games, but the facts are also that we have to do something about the fixture list,” he said.

“People have been talking about this for so long and there’s been no solution that suits everybody, and there never will be, I think.

“This is a bit of a compromise in that, if we’re going to play 16 Twenty20 games, something’s got to give. Personally, I don’t think from a cricket point of view that we need 16 Twenty20 games.”