Champions Yorkshire CCC still keen to improve in drive for more success

MARTYN MOXON believes Yorkshire will be tough to beat as they chase a hat-trick of County Championship titles – but warned that the prize is no foregone conclusion.

Martyn Moxon has laid down title gauntlet to his treble-chasing Yorkshire side.

The county’s director of cricket believes that the players are well-capable of making it three titles in a row, something no county has achieved since Yorkshire themselves in the late 1960s.

Yorkshire sailed home last summer, setting new records for the most wins and most points since the move to two divisions in 2000.

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And after the fixtures for next season were announced yesterday, Moxon backed Yorkshire to sustain their success – provided the players keep the bar high.

“I do believe that if we play to our capabilities we’re going to be hard to beat,” said Moxon, whose side begin their campaign against Hampshire at Headingley on April 17.

“That’s how we feel and what we always try to focus on – how well we play – because we know that if we play to our capabilities, we’re going to be there or thereabouts.

“That’s not to say that there aren’t some good teams out there, because there are.

“We know that if we’re below what we’re capable of, then we can get beaten very easily.”

An example came last September when Yorkshire lost by 246 runs against Middlesex at Lord’s.

The champions end next season at the same ground, where they have lost twice in successive summers – among just four defeats in the Championship since 2011.

“We know we’re capable of doing it (three titles in a row), but we can’t take our foot off the gas,” said Moxon.

“We saw at Lord’s last season, when we just took our foot off the gas a little bit, what can happen because we got hammered.

“But the players know that, and they’re certainly motivated to try and win it for a third time.

“It would mean a huge amount to us because it would be a unique achievement in modern-day cricket, and, as we’ve always said, the idea is to try and leave a legacy of success and for people to talk about this group of players like they talk about the great Yorkshire teams of the past.”

By their own admission, Yorkshire did not play to their optimum last season – a frightening reality for their rivals.

They had no real standout challenger, and it remains to be seen whether any side suddenly emerges from the pack.

The newly-promoted teams, Surrey and Lancashire, are unknown quantities, while Warwickshire should benefit from having Ian Bell available more often after he was dropped by England.

But Yorkshire still breezed it last season despite England call-ups – including six players absent on the spring tour to the West Indies – and have outlined their desire to improve.

“In 2014, we probably had a few of what you would class as near-perfect performances, whereas in 2015 we were far from having very many perfect performances,” said Moxon.

“By perfect performances, I mean that we all batted well together, bowled well together, fielded well and caught everything, but it wasn’t quite as complete as that last summer.

“As a batting group, we can do a lot better; as a bowling group, it would be hard to bowl better than we did last season, but we can still do that too.

“There’s room for improvement across the board.”

While it is hard to see anyone stopping Yorkshire in the Championship, at least given a fair wind with injuries, the same cannot yet be said of the club in one-day cricket.

It is 13 years since Yorkshire won a one-day trophy, a reflection of how they have prioritised the Championship, but also of how they have never really cracked the one-day game.

Yorkshire showed improvement in the 50-over competition last summer, reaching the Royal London Cup semi-finals, but their T20 form was poor.

They finished second-bottom of the North Group and perhaps tried too hard to find the right formula.

“We got to the semi-final of the 50-over competition and played some decent cricket at times in that, but T20 is the one that’s been the most disappointing since we got to the final three years ago,” said Moxon.

“It’s just a case of trying to get consistency with personnel, and we’re going to try and aim to get a squad of 14 or 15 players we can pick from throughout the competition ideally. As a coaching staff, we’re firm believers that the best T20 teams have clarity, and the fewer players you use, the better.”

Yorkshire’s Joe Root and Kane Williamson have been named in the ICC Test team of the year. Root was also 12th man in the ODI team.

Test team: David Warner (Aus), Alastair Cook (captain, Eng), Kane Williamson (NZ), Younus Khan (Pak), Steven Smith (Aus), Joe Root (Eng), Sarfraz Ahmed (Pak), Stuart Broad (Eng), Trent Boult (NZ), Yasir Shah (Pak), Josh Hazelwood (Aus). 12th man: Ravichandran Ashwin (Ind).

ODI team: Tillakaratne Dilshan (SL), Hashim Amla (SA), Kumar Sangakkara (SL), AB de Villiers (captain, SA), Steven Smith (Aus), Ross Taylor (NZ), Trent Boult (NZ), Mohammed Shami (Ind), Mitchell Starc (Aus), Mustafizur Rahman (Bang), Imran Tahir (SA). 12th man: Joe Root (Eng).