Opening fixtures offer solid start for Yorkshire

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YORKSHIRE have been handed a great chance to hit the ground running as they look to get their County Championship promotion push off to a flier.

The county cricket fixtures, published today, provide an instant opportunity to gain valuable points, with Yorkshire’s opening four games coming against teams who finished in the bottom three of Division Two last year.

Yorkshire face Kent, who finished eighth last season, at Headingley Carnegie in their opening match before playing them at Canterbury in game No.3.

In between they host Essex, who finished seventh last summer, and in their fourth fixture take on Leicestershire, who came rock-bottom.

Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, said his side would be aiming to capitalise on a decent start.

“It’s a good opportunity to get some early points on the board,” said Moxon, whose team were relegated last summer.

“No games are easy, but our aim next year is to win promotion and it’s an opportunity to lay down a marker.

“Traditionally, we have started well in recent years, so it’s something we know we’ve got the ability to do.

“But we need more consistency throughout the season because that’s the key if we’re going to go up.”

Moxon has been generally unhappy with Yorkshire’s fixtures since rejoining the county in 2007.

He has criticised the lack of preparation time in between games as players constantly flit from one match to the next.

However, next year there are six fewer days cricket in the schedule, with the number of Twenty20 group games having been pruned from 16 to 10.

And Moxon has pronounced himself largely satisfied with the hand Yorkshire have been dealt in all competitions.

“Overall, it’s one of the better fixture lists we’ve had in a number of years,” he said.

“We’ve got a nice spread and there’s more preparation time in between matches.

“It’s not as chaotic as it has been in the past and we haven’t got any crazy journeys like we had last year.

“Overall, we can’t be too disappointed because there are reasonable spaces in between games.

“We’re also pretty happy with the way the Twenty20 matches have fallen.

“The home fixtures are on Fridays or Sundays, while we’ve got five days to prepare for the competition this time, which is a luxury we haven’t had in the past.

“By the same token, a couple of coaches from other counties have rung me and said they’re not happy with some of their fixtures, so I guess it’s swings and roundabouts.

“But it’s a better set of games from our point of view.”

That is not to say Yorkshire’s schedule is devoid of problems.

Although three of their opening four Championship games are at home, as well as three of the last four, there is a run of four successive Championship away games in July/August, while Yorkshire have only one day’s cricket at Headingley in July – a Twenty20 match against Derbyshire.

That falls during a run of nine away games out of 10.

“The only problem with the fixture list is the imbalance,” said Moxon.

“There are a lot of home games at the start and a lot of away games in the middle, and it’s disappointing our members won’t have much Championship cricket to watch at the height of the season.

“One day’s cricket at Headingley in July is obviously not good and that’s the massive downside to the fixtures for me. If we happen to get rained off in April and May, it means our members aren’t going to see much cricket at all.”

The county season begins earlier than ever on April 5.

Lancashire begin their title defence on April 12 against Sussex at Liverpool – the first of four Championship fixtures next summer at the Aigburth venue.

Lancashire’s other four Championship home games will be played at Old Trafford, where no four-day game was possible last summer due to rebuilding work.

Yorkshire’s relegation and the vagaries of the CB40 draw mean there are only two scheduled Roses matches next season, both in the Twenty20 Cup.

Yorkshire play their arch rivals at Headingley on Friday, June 29 before the return at Old Trafford seven days later.

For the first time, Yorkshire’s three-day game against Leeds-Bradford MCCU will be a first-class fixture.

MCC have announced that Leeds-Bradford MCCU and Cardiff MCCU have been granted first-class status for the first time, meaning all six university sides – the others being Cambridge, Oxford, Loughborough and Durham – have been awarded this distinction.

The university teams are financially supported and administered by MCC and aim to give young players quality coaching and playing opportunities while furthering their education.

Leeds-Bradford kick off their campaign against Surrey at the Oval on March 31.