Promotion remains priority for Gale’s Yorkshire

Yorkshire players celebrate the wicket of Worcestershire's James Cameron.
Yorkshire players celebrate the wicket of Worcestershire's James Cameron.
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ANDREW GALE has admitted Yorkshire will be judged on whether they win County Championship promotion – not on whether they lift the Twenty20 Cup.

The Yorkshire captain led his side to ‘Twenty20 Finals Day’ for the first time on Wednesday with a quarter-final victory against Worcestershire at Headingley.

But Gale stressed the four-day tournament is the priority – and that of most of the county’s followers.

Speaking ahead of today’s Championship game against Leicestershire at Grace Road, Gale said: “It’s nice to do well in Twenty20 but most people will still see it as a disappointment if we don’t get out of the Championship Second Division.

“That’s the main target as far as we’re concerned and what most of our supporters are wanting to see.

“Yes, we’ve played some good cricket in Twenty20 and it’s a great feeling to reach ‘Finals Day’ for the first time.

“But the priority is Championship promotion and nothing has changed in that respect.”

It is a priority which Geoffrey Boycott firmly laid down during his president’s address at Headingley in March.

Boycott told members that “winning promotion is the only thing that matters” and something that must be “uppermost in everyone’s minds”.

Yorkshire are well placed to achieve their objective as the season approaches its business end.

The top two climb into Division One and Yorkshire are third in the table, three points behind second-placed Hampshire and 25 points behind leaders Derbyshire with six games left.

“The weather has badly affected the tournament this year, so we’re looking at this now as a mini-season of six games,” added Gale.

“If we perform to our capabilities in those six matches, I’m confident we’re going to be there or thereabouts.

“There’s been games this year that we could have won had it not been for the weather, so, hopefully, we can get some good weather now and start moving forward.

“Fingers crossed, the forecast looks good for the game at Leicester and we’ll be doing our utmost to win that match.”

It is a match which any promotion-chasing side would expect to win. Leicestershire are rock-bottom of Division Two and on course to repeat their wooden spoon performance of 2011.

Yorkshire go straight from Leicester to Northampton before a crunch meeting with Derbyshire at Headingley in mid-August.

They conclude their Championship programme with fixtures against Gloucestershire at Scarborough, Glamorgan at Headingley and Essex at Chelmsford. “It’s going to be a massive few weeks for us,” said Gale.

“It’s all to play for in the promotion race and we can take heart from our performances in Twenty20.

“I know that’s a totally different competition but we can only take confidence from the way that we’ve played. Winning is a habit and one that we want to start seeing in the Championship now.”

Yorkshire will have to negotiate the Leicester match without Mitchell Starc, the Australian pace bowler who played his last game for the county on Wednesday.

The club had hoped Starc would be made available by Cricket Australia for the match at Grace Road, but the 22-year-old is wanted for his country’s A team tour of England and will also be unavailable for Cardiff.

However, former England pace bowler Steve Harmison is set to play his third Championship game for Yorkshire as he continues his one-month loan spell from Durham.

Harmison was signed specifically to offset the absence of left-arm seam bowler Ryan Sidebottom, who remains sidelined with a calf injury.

Yorkshire have named two spinners in their 13-man squad in Azeem Rafiq and Adil Rashid.

They face a tough decision as to who makes way for Gale in the batting department, with the captain having missed the last two Championship games at Hampshire and Derbyshire with a hip injury. Anthony McGrath and Adam Lyth would appear the most vulnerable.

McGrath scored 5 against Hampshire and 0 against Derbyshire, while Lyth scored 2 against Hampshire and 19 against Derbyshire.

Whoever gets the nod, first-team coach Jason Gillespie echoed Gale’s comments about the importance of the Championship.

“It’s definitely our No 1 priority, there’s no question about that,” he said.

“We’ll be doing everything we can to achieve that goal and playing with an extremely positive attitude.

“We just need some dry conditions now to help us on our way.

“If we get those, I’d back our players to put us into good positions more often than not.”

It has been confirmed Yorkshire will play Sussex in the first semi-final at Twenty20 Finals Day (11.00am start).

Hampshire meet Somerset in the second semi-final (2.30pm start), and the final commences at 6.45pm.

The four semi-finalists have each been allocated 1,100 tickets for the event at SWALEC Stadium on August 25. Tickets are already available under some of Yorkshire’s membership schemes and go on general sale on August 12.

Joe Root deflects Boycott comparisons as members bemoan Yorkshire’s T20 ticket allocation: Page 20