JASON GILLESPIE has hailed Yorkshire’s bowling strength as key to their rise to the summit of the County Championship.
The Yorkshire first-team coach said the skill, variety and depth of the bowling had helped them climb to the top of the league.
Yorkshire went top on Tuesday with an innings victory over Warwickshire at Headingley.
As Yorkshire now turn their attention to Twenty20 cricket, with their first match against Northamptonshire at Headingley tomorrow (5.30pm start) before the Championship resumes on Sunday week, Gillespie praised his bowlers’ efforts.
“We’ve got bowlers who all bring something to the table,” said Gillespie, the former Australia fast bowler.
“We’ve got guys who can put pressure on the batsmen and keep the runs down, guys like Ryan Sidebottom, Tim Bresnan and Steve Patterson.
“And we’ve got guys like Jack Brooks and Liam Plunkett who can run in and be very aggressive with their lines and lengths.
“On top of that, we’ve got the leg-spin of Adil Rashid and the off-spin of Joe Root and Kane Williamson, so we’ve got great options throughout the team.”
Yorkshire’s strength is such that they could afford to rest Sidebottom from the Warwickshire match as part of a fluid rotation strategy.
With the club aiming for silverware on all three fronts, including the new 50-over competition that starts later in the summer, they are making a conscious attempt to keep players fresh.
At 36, Sidebottom needs more looking after than most, with Gillespie comparing him to a Rolls Royce that requires care and attention.
Not that there has been any sign of depreciation in the left-armer’s form; far from it.
In five first-class games this season, Sidebottom has taken 17 wickets at 19.35 and looked typically threatening.
Plunkett has also taken 17 wickets in five matches at 28.05, while Brooks heads the list with 24 wickets in six games at 25.62.
Patterson has 11 from five games at 24.27, Rashid 10 from six games at 36.80 and Williamson five from five games at 28.20.
Bresnan has four from two games at 30, and Gillespie is pleased with the way the England man has shaped up on his return to the side.
“I’ve been impressed with Bres,” said Gillespie.
“He felt really good on the last day against Warwickshire and the ball’s coming out well and carrying through well to the wicketkeeper.
“He spent a lot of time on the field in his first match back against Durham, and I think he felt it a little bit; he bowled 30-odd overs on a heavy outfield and we fielded over 190 overs straight.
“But he had a couple of days off and benefited from that, and I thought he bowled a really good length against Warwickshire and that all the bowlers were ruthless.”
Yorkshire’s clinical display followed a couple of indifferent performances with the ball by their own high standards against Middlesex and Durham.
They were humbled at Lord’s when Middlesex knocked off 472, the third-highest chase in Championship history, and they were unable to polish off Durham at Chester-le-Street – although they dominated the game on a flat pitch.
It is why Gillespie is taking nothing for granted if Yorkshire are to fulfil their ambition of winning the league.
There have already been plenty of twists and turns this summer, with teams constantly taking points off one another, and you will not find Gillespie crowing about Yorkshire’s prospects.
“We’re top of the league at the moment but we’re going to have to work very hard to stay there,” he said.
“We were in a good position against Middlesex and lost that game, and the results we’ve seen so far this season show just how tight the First Division is.
“We’ve had a couple of bowling performances during the course of this season which have been below our expectations; we just haven’t quite got it right at times.
“Andrew Gale (the captain) and myself asked our bowlers to be ruthless against Warwickshire, to bowl full and straight and look to hit the stumps, and the way they implemented that was absolutely sensational.
“There were a lot of bowleds, lbws and nicking to the slips, and we were really pleased with that.
“But it’s a tough division, a competitive division, and we can’t afford to rest on our laurels because any number of teams can win the title.
“Personally, I think it’s great for the game of cricket in England and great for the spectators as well.
“But, when we get our skills right, victories like the one over Warwickshire show exactly what our lads can do.”