Championship the priority but Yorkshire eye new T20 signing

Back for more:  Yorkshire's Cheteshwar Pujara celebrating his century against Hampshire.Back for more:  Yorkshire's Cheteshwar Pujara celebrating his century against Hampshire.
Back for more: Yorkshire's Cheteshwar Pujara celebrating his century against Hampshire.
YORKSHIRE could sign a second overseas player for T20.

The club already have New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson for the 20-over format.

“We’re looking at it,” revealed director of cricket Martyn Moxon. “A lot of it depends on the finances. We’re an expensive squad.

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“If we can’t, we can’t, and we know that we’ve got a quality batsman in Kane for the majority of the T20 competition. But if we’ve got available funds for an extra T20 player, it could potentially happen.”

Counties can field up to two overseas players in T20. Williamson arrives in July and is available for the last 11 of Yorkshire’s 14 group matches.

Williamson will also play four County Championship games, dovetailing with fellow overseas batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, who could potentially play as many as nine Championship fixtures depending on his commitments with India.

Pujara is also available for seven of Yorkshire’s eight group matches in the Royal London Cup, but counties can only play one overseas player at a time in that tournament as well as in the Championship.

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“When it’s all been worked out exactly how long Pujara is going to be with us, we can then see what, if anything, is left in the pot to potentially sign another overseas T20,” added Moxon.

“But our first priority was making sure that our Championship cricket was catered for this year, and we’ve got two quality overseas batsmen to cover for most of that competition.

“We want to get back on track in that format of the game, and the batting is an area in which we’ve struggled in the Championship for the last three or four years. So I think we’ve done well in terms of the signings that we’ve made.”

Pujara, whose signing was confirmed yesterday, follows Williamson back to Headingley after playing for Yorkshire in 2015. It will be Williamson’s fourth stint after spells in 2013, 2014 and 2016.

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“Cheteshwar proved to be a very likeable character the last time he was with us, and he will definitely relieve some of the pressure on the top-order,” said Moxon. “Just as he did in 2015, he will relish the challenge of performing in English conditions, and he’s a very difficult batsman to dislodge.

“We haven’t yet decided where he will bat, but it could be anywhere between No 3 and No 5. We’ll obviously have a chat to him when he gets here in April and see how the other lads are performing as well.”

Pujara is set to play the first five Championship games before heading home for a one-off Test against Afghanistan in Bengaluru.

It is hoped that he will be back for the sixth and seventh Championship matches, the first of which is a day/night affair against Hampshire at Southampton starting on June 20, just two days after the Test is scheduled to finish.

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Pujara will be involved in India’s five-Test series in England starting on August 1 but could potentially return for the last two Championship games.

Although his chief value to Yorkshire is as a Championship cricketer, Pujura also has an excellent one-day record. The 30-year-old has played only five one-day internationals, the last of them four years ago, but he averages 54.12 in List A cricket to go with a first-class average of 56.42.

“Pujara’s record in one-day cricket is very good, and in domestic 50-over cricket he’s done really well,” said Moxon. “We’ve got plenty of attacking batsmen on our staff, so if he can be a bit like Shaun Marsh was for us in T20 last year, a bit of the glue that holds us together, then that would complement what we’ve already got.

“That’s the thinking, and it will allow the likes of Lyth, Lees, Kohler-Cadmore and the rest to go out and express themselves in one-day cricket. If Pujara bats the majority of the innings, and everybody else can go and express themselves around him, we should get some decent totals.”

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Pujara has had a busy winter of international cricket, playing three Tests against Sri Lanka and three against South Africa. He made one hundred and two fifties during those games, scoring a dogged 50 to help India to victory against South Africa in Johannesburg last week on a difficult surface.

“What’s pleased me is that he’s spent time in the middle in that recent South Africa series,” added Moxon.

“Bowlers were on top predominantly during that series, so it was pleasing to see him contribute on pitches that have certainly been more bowler-friendly than they would be in India, which is the sort of challenge that he’ll be tackling in England as well.

“What he is willing to do is spend that time in the middle, which is exactly what we need in Championship cricket – that mentality to bat for long periods of time.

“Hopefully, that will rub off on some of our younger batsmen too and remind us of how we win four-day games – by batting long.”