Yorkshire CCC should enjoy their best season since the mid-2010s glory days - Chris Waters

THE players seem happier than they have for some time.

There is no talk simply of winning promotion – only of winning the Second Division title.

The mood of optimism at Headingley is striking.

The sense of anticipation going into the season is palpable.

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Man on a mission: captain Shan Masood. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comMan on a mission: captain Shan Masood. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Man on a mission: captain Shan Masood. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but there is no reason why Yorkshire should not enjoy their best season since the mid-2010s glory days.

The racism crisis is effectively over – although its aftershocks will be felt for years to come.

The points deduction arising from it is a thing of the past too; Yorkshire go into 2024 with a genuine “clean slate”, if that term can ever be taken seriously again.

All that needs to happen now is for the men in white to “Play up! Play up! And play the game!”, as Sir Henry Newbolt once wrote, for “there’s a breathless hush in the (Brian) Close tonight”, to adapt the opening line of his famous poem.

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Ready to rise: the Yorkshire players pictured at their annual pre-season photo call.  Back row (left to right): Will Luxton, Ben Cliff, Harry Duke, Mickey Edwards, Dom Leech, James Wharton; middle row (left to right): Matthew Fisher, Dan Moriarty, Matthew Revis, Finlay Bean, George Hill, Jafer Chohan, Matt Milnes; front row (;eft to right): Jordan Thompson, Harry Brook, Adam Lyth, Shan Masood, Jonathan Tattersall, Dom Bess, Ben Coad. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.comReady to rise: the Yorkshire players pictured at their annual pre-season photo call.  Back row (left to right): Will Luxton, Ben Cliff, Harry Duke, Mickey Edwards, Dom Leech, James Wharton; middle row (left to right): Matthew Fisher, Dan Moriarty, Matthew Revis, Finlay Bean, George Hill, Jafer Chohan, Matt Milnes; front row (;eft to right): Jordan Thompson, Harry Brook, Adam Lyth, Shan Masood, Jonathan Tattersall, Dom Bess, Ben Coad. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Ready to rise: the Yorkshire players pictured at their annual pre-season photo call. Back row (left to right): Will Luxton, Ben Cliff, Harry Duke, Mickey Edwards, Dom Leech, James Wharton; middle row (left to right): Matthew Fisher, Dan Moriarty, Matthew Revis, Finlay Bean, George Hill, Jafer Chohan, Matt Milnes; front row (;eft to right): Jordan Thompson, Harry Brook, Adam Lyth, Shan Masood, Jonathan Tattersall, Dom Bess, Ben Coad. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Cricket, in other words, can retake centre stage, and Yorkshire have all the tools necessary to not only win promotion but also that Division Two crown. Leaving aside the usual caveats that they can’t take anything for granted and there are no easy games at this level (other cliches are available, and have been shamelessly plundered hereabouts), it would be a major surprise if they did not go up.

Put it like this… if Yorkshire were already in Division One, they would be a decent bet to win the Championship this year with the squad they possess.

If that brings extra pressure and expectation, so be it; as head coach Ottis Gibson has observed, “there’s always pressure if you’re playing for Yorkshire”.

An indication of Yorkshire’s strength came on Thursday lunchtime with the publication of the annual eve-of-season captain’s survey. This survey, conducted by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), publishes anonymised responses from the 18 county captains to such questions as “Who will win the First Division title?” and “Who will get promoted?”

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For the record, 12 captains backed Surrey to become the first club since Yorkshire in the late 1960s to win a hat-trick of Championships (I personally think Durham could stop them, perhaps even Lancashire), and 14 captains predicted that Yorkshire will be promoted, with Middlesex (nine votes) and Sussex (seven) backed as the club to join them (I’ll go for Sussex).

Perhaps the “pressure” in Yorkshire’s case should be re-labelled “peer pressure”; it certainly represents a strong vote of confidence from their peers.

In Yorkshire’s favour is a batting line-up which, at times in the season’s early weeks, will resemble an international one. There will be three current internationals, in fact, in Joe Root, Harry Brook and the Pakistan Test captain Shan Masood, a former one in Adam Lyth and perhaps a future one in Fin Bean.

Throw in a fully-fit and outstanding pace attack, led by Ben Coad and Matty Fisher, with support from Matthew Milnes; a strong and talented group of young all-rounders; extra spin strength in the form of Dan Moriarty and a squad bonded by the adversity of recent times, and you are scratching around for chinks in the armour.

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In addition, Masood is here from the start of the season and should be available for its vast majority, with only a two-Test series against Bangladesh in August on his scheduled horizon.

White-ball cricket?

Well, one is tempted to say “who cares?” given that Championship promotion this year is the be-all and end-all, but of course Yorkshire want to – and frankly need to – win a white-ball trophy again at some stage.

It is so long since they last did so that some of the present squad were nobbut babes in arms; for the record, it was way back in 2002 when they beat Somerset in the old Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy.

White-ball these days is more of a lottery; the standard across the board has risen and narrowed in T20 especially, with each side possessing match-winners and players capable of the most extraordinary things.

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Yorkshire have a few themselves and should be competitive in the T20 Blast, a tournament they have never won, only three times reaching Finals Day.

The 50-over Cup is now a development event, dovetailing with The Hundred, so it is very difficult to predict how Yorkshire will fare in them overall.

However, a stronger white-ball showing all-round seems likely from the club; can it finally get its hands on some silverware?

It seems peculiar, after so much off-field misery in the last two or three years, to be writing so optimistically about Yorkshire’s strength and their chances of success.

But now is the time for a great club to rise once more towards the sunlit uplands of a bright new beginning.

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