Chris Waters: Killer instinct is required if title aspirations are to be met

Yorkshire's Steven Patterson (centre) is congratulated by Adil Rashid (R) on the wicket of Notts' Samit Patel.
Yorkshire's Steven Patterson (centre) is congratulated by Adil Rashid (R) on the wicket of Notts' Samit Patel.
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YORKSHIRE are at the halfway stage of their County Championship season and the mark I would give them so far is B-plus.

They have performed well overall to sit second in the table, five points behind Somerset, but have not been sufficiently clinical to warrant top spot.

It would not be unreasonable to suggest that Yorkshire could be a good 20-30 points clear at this stage.

They should have beaten Middlesex, who beat them by seven wickets at Lord’s after chasing down 472, the third-highest pursuit in Championship history, and a team with title aspirations would have expected to beat Nottinghamshire at Headingley last week after creating several opportunities to do just that.

Yorkshire bowled really well to reduce Nottinghamshire to 139-8 on the opening day only for the visitors to rally to 205.

But that recovery, such as it was, should not have mattered as Yorkshire failed to achieve a sizeable first-innings advantage through some poor decisions and careless shots.

Even so, armed with a lead of just 42, Yorkshire bared their teeth once more to leave Nottinghamshire in real trouble on 154-5 on the final morning, just 112 ahead.

But a lack of killer instinct – notwithstanding the excellent batting of James Taylor and Chris Read – enabled the visitors to get off the hook.

This will frustrate Yorkshire, and it should.

Not for nothing are they many people’s title favourites; they have a strength in depth that few – if indeed any county – can rival.

Even without their England players, Yorkshire are a strong side and good enough, on paper, to win the Championship.

When they have been good, they have been very good, such as when they thrashed Northamptonshire (twice) and Warwickshire, but the lack of potency on the final day against Nottinghamshire – exemplified by the performance of Tim Bresnan – was concerning and highlighted how reliant Yorkshire have become on Liam Plunkett, who returned to international cricket this week after a seven-year absence.

Bresnan, flattered by figures of 4-112 from 27 overs, is second in the bowling averages at the halfway stage with 20 wickets from five matches at 23.30. At times, he has bowled very well indeed; at others, he has looked some way short of international class.

Ryan Sidebottom tops the averages with 16 wickets at 21.50, but is a week away from returning after a hamstring problem and has not yet hit top gear.

Whereas Sidebottom and Bresnan are striking at a wicket every 52 balls, Jack Brooks (41) and Plunkett (44) have carried the greatest threat. Brooks is the division’s leading wicket-taker with 35 at 27.05, while Plunkett has 24 wickets at 24.83.

Yorkshire’s batting has generally been good and, just as their entire attack is averaging below 30 apart from spinner Adil Rashid (38.66), they possess eight batsmen averaging over 40.

England’s Gary Ballance is the biggest miss; the left-hander tops the averages with 410 runs from four games at 68.33, while Adam Lyth is leading run-scorer with 667 at 55.58.

Yorkshire will be looking for more in the second half of the season from Andrew Gale, Jonny Bairstow, Kane Williamson and Alex Lees, all of whom can show their undoubted class.

At the halfway stage, there are many positives for Yorkshire to build on.

They have not yet fired on full cylinders – but they are firmly in the mix in a wide-open title race.