ONE of my colleagues in the Warwickshire press corps last week raised an interesting point.
“Do Warwickshire actually believe they can beat Yorkshire?” he mused as he watched the action unfold on the first day at Edgbaston.
“For Warwickshire to stand any chance of winning the title, they surely have to beat Yorkshire this week.
“The gap between the teams is already 34 points, and we can’t afford to let it get wider.”
As well all know, Warwickshire did not beat Yorkshire as the visitors triumphed by 174 runs.
Consequently, Warwickshire’s titles hopes are probably over, while Yorkshire are odds-on to claim back-to-back Championships.
But the question my colleague posed – “do Warwickshire actually believe they can beat Yorkshire?” – was pertinent.
For does any team in the First Division, in fact, genuinely believe they can defeat Yorkshire?
On the evidence of what we have seen so far, the attitude seems to be “let’s try to stop Yorkshire from winning and look to pick up points elsewhere”.
On the face of it, that is not an unreasonable approach considering that Yorkshire have lost only three of their last 59 Championship games and are so strong that they can afford to lose several players to England and yet still be 24 points clear at the top with a game in hand.
But the fact that sides seemed scared of Yorkshire is evidenced by some of the pitches they have encountered at away games this season.
If teams can prepare a flat one and look to nullify the threat of the Yorkshire pace attack, you can bet your bottom dollar they will do just that.
Yorkshire encountered flat surfaces at Trent Bridge and Taunton, for example, while the fear felt by those playing against them was also highlighted by Worcestershire’s tactical approach in the game at New Road.
As Yorkshire got closer to Worcestershire’s first innings total, despite having been in some difficulty before a defiant innings from Tim Bresnan, the hosts tried to defend by putting men on the boundary instead of trying to attack by looking to take wickets.
Worcestershire were not trying to beat Yorkshire, it seemed, and to capitalise on an initially strong position.
They were trying to stop Yorkshire from beating them – something they predictably failed to do.
In addition, can it be any coincidence that the pitches at Headingley this season have seemed somewhat livelier?
When Yorkshire played Middlesex, for example, the highest total was 229.
In sporting conditions, where the pitch does provide a reasonable balance between bat and ball, Yorkshire are simply too strong for the rest of the league.
Their bowling attack, in particular, is the reason they can withstand so many England calls and still be successful, with Ryan Sidebottom, Jack Brooks, Steve Patterson and Tim Bresnan forming a formidable pace quartet.
Yorkshire are now so well-placed to win the title again that sides may actually have to take more risks against them and look to prepare livelier surfaces in an effort to rein them in.
That, in turn, could further play into Yorkshire’s hands.