Ruthless Yorkshire answering doubters with gusto

Chris Waters analyses how Andrew Gale’s men have turned a perceived weakness into a strength as they aim to celebrate the county’s 150th anniversary with the Championship.

Yorkshire's Andrew Gale hits out.

ONE of the biggest question marks surrounding Yorkshire going into the season was whether they possessed sufficient batting strength.

The retirement of Anthony McGrath and decision not to replace him was felt by some to have left the club vulnerable if they were to post the sort of competitive totals required to a mount a challenge for the Championship.

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Yorkshire felt the greater priority was to sign more bowlers so recruited two in the form of pace duo Jack Brooks and Liam Plunkett.

The batting, they insisted, would take care of itself – a view not unanimously shared by the county’s followers.

Halfway through the season, however, and you could be forgiven for wondering what the fuss was about.

Not only have Brooks and Plunkett been outstanding, with the latter having resurrected his career after a difficult few years, but the batting has been consistently impressive.

It is true that the alarm bells were ringing when Yorkshire were bowled out for 96 in the first innings of their opening game of the season against Sussex, a debacle followed by another at Durham where they were ejected for a paltry 177.

Since then, however, the runs have flowed and questions have been emphatically answered.

Of their seven first innings totals since the Durham game, Yorkshire have six times passed 400, including two scores of 500-plus and one of almost 700.

There have been 12 individual hundreds along the way, six of which have exceeded 140.

The only time Yorkshire have not scored 400 was in the recent game against Middlesex at Lord’s. Yet they only fell short by a mere 10 runs before proceeding to a thumping 10-wicket win.

Such a consistent rate of scoring goes a long way to explaining why Yorkshire are top of the Championship table.

Granted, it is bowlers who win matches, and Yorkshire have also proved themselves consistently capable of taking 20 wickets.

None of it would be possible without the platforms provided, ensuring the bowlers have sufficient runs with which to work.

In that regard Yorkshire’s have been highly favoured, just as those of the opposition have been habitually flayed.

“Scoreboard pressure” – that phrase beloved of cricketers and coaches – has served Yorkshire well in recent weeks.

When Derbyshire made 475 at Headingley in April, for instance, the highest total against Yorkshire this summer, the home side simply sailed past it and on to 677-7 declared.

Faced with a deficit they did not expect to encounter, Derbyshire were dismissed for 163 to lose by an innings and 39 runs.

It was the result that got Yorkshire’s season on the move, as well as hinting at the character within the dressing room.

That character has been glowingly evident in individual performances.

Invariably, people have stood up at important times to play the sizeable innings the team have required.

At the start of the season it was Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow, who played their part brilliantly before joining up with England.

Root’s second innings 182 inspired a remarkable win at Durham after the collective first innings calamity, the opener following up with a career-best 236 against Derbyshire at Headingley – a match in which Bairstow bashed a belligerent 186.

No sooner had Root and Bairstow disappeared than Adil Rashid took centre stage.

The 25-year-old leg-spinner, whose bowling had fallen away in recent times, suddenly exploded into form with three successive centuries.

When Rashid’s rich run naturally tailed off, it was Andrew Gale who found a new lease of life.

The captain, who had not scored a first-class hundred for two years when he struck 272 against Nottinghamshire at Scarborough, also fired three centuries on the bounce, the last of them an innings of 148 in the ongoing game against Surrey at Headingley.

Gary Ballance has been another consistent performer, scoring more than 600 Championship runs – including two centuries.

Adam Lyth finally found form with a hundred at Taunton, while young Alex Lees made his maiden Championship century against Middlesex at Lord’s.

Batsmen have not just been scoring hundreds, however, they have been scoring big hundreds, game-changing hundreds, hundreds that win you Championship matches.

There has been a ruthlessness about Yorkshire’s batting, a determination to make those centuries count.

Sometimes, and particularly when things are not going well, you find that batsmen expect each other to produce the big scores. The thinking goes that if one person gets a low score it does not really matter because somebody else will bail the team out of trouble.

Such thinking rarely underpins a successful side and it has been manifestly absent from this Yorkshire one.

Rather, each player has recognised that he needs to take responsibility to score the big runs required, a mindset that has vanquished the bowlers and dispelled the doubters.