Yorkshire v Kent - Joe Root returns as Andrew Gale looks for early runs at Headingley

ONE of the features of county cricket behind closed doors has been the way that coaches and support staff have strolled around the boundary while the games have been in progress, watching from different vantage points and generally conducting themselves as you see in league cricket, where there is much more of an informal feel.

Yorkshire's Joe Root returns to face Kent. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com
Yorkshire's Joe Root returns to face Kent. Picture: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

There are no spectators, of course, to venture their opinions, good or bad, or to demand their time and attention as they walk around the rope, and it has provided a unique glimpse into the emotions and body language of those who would otherwise be out of sight in the pavilion.

Andrew Gale the Yorkshire first team coach, estimated that he did around 16,000 steps on Sunday as his side closed out a nervy one-run win against Northants at Headingley – only the second time that Yorkshire have won a Championship match by that margin.

It was a good job that Gale had little hair to lose as he did several laps of the boundary, reflecting that it was “a tough watch” and that his heart-rate “has only just come down”.

Yorkshire's Andrew Gale.

Guaranteed to aid Gale’s peace of mind would be if his side could do against Kent this week what they have so far managed just once in their opening four games – to score heavily in their first innings.

Coincidentally, the only time they did so was against Kent in Canterbury, where a first innings total of 379 laid the platform for a 200-run win.

Otherwise, Yorkshire’s first innings scores have been 193 at home to Glamorgan, 150 away to Sussex, and 206 against Northants last week.

That they recovered to beat Sussex and Northants is a tribute to their character and fighting spirit, but it has not done much for Gale’s nerves when patrolling the sidelines.

“We’ve got to start batting better,” he said, a task aided this week by the return of Test captain Joe Root, who crafted a sublime second innings hundred in the win at Kent.

“With all due respect, there’s better teams than Northants, although I thought that Northants performed very well.

“But your Somersets, your Essexs, those sort of teams… you can’t give them a sniff and you can’t fight your way back.

“It gives you a lot of confidence when you win from behind, but you can’t keep getting out of jail every week.”

Gale thus crystallised the state of Yorkshire cricket, with the team not batting/playing to their optimum but still managing to grind out wins.

Never mind the performances – just look at the results; Yorkshire are second in Championship Group Three, six points behind Lancashire, and looking well-placed to secure the top-two finish that would give them a crack at winning the title when the groups split into three separate divisions later in the season.

With a little more consistency with the bat, which has so far come only from a middle/lower-order led by Dom Bess, Yorkshire could challenge the Essexs and Somersets of this world.

So well has Bess batted, in fact, that it is unclear whether Yorkshire signed a batsman or a bowler when they recruited him from Somerset – perhaps they have simply signed a fine all-rounder, one who is only likely to improve.

“I think over time Bessy could be a No 6,” said Gale, who has seen the club’s No 7 batsman average just under 40 with some key contributions.

“We still forget that he’s only 23; Bessy has played almost as many Test matches as first-class games. I think he’s still finding his feet at this level, but the signs are good.

“He’s showing signs of being able to make first-class hundreds, and he’s growing in confidence with every week that he plays.”

With Bess and David Willey scoring runs from lower down, and with Jordan Thompson always a threat in that regard also, Yorkshire have plenty of depth in their batting.

Jonny Tattersall is straining every sinew to complement some fine wicketkeeping displays with runs in the bank, which would give extra security in the middle of the line-up, and Gale is happy with the middle/lower-order balance.

“I thought in the Northants game that Tatts looked a little bit more assured than he had done in previous games, and all he needs is a score,” said Gale.

“Bessy is doing well, and I quite like Tommo and Dave coming in in those positions (No 8/No 9).

“There’s no doubt those two could bat higher too, but you look at the last couple of games where Dave’s come in in that position, for example, and he’s just showed all his experience. I’m quite happy with that batting line-up as it stands.”

Willey is rested for this week’s match; Yorkshire are building up the red-ball fitness of a player who has primarily featured in the white-ball arena, with pace man Ben Coad set to return from a shoulder injury suffered during the opening game of the season.

Kent, meanwhile, have signed the former New Zealand U19 pace bowler Matt Quinn on loan from Essex as they seek to climb off the bottom of the group after three defeats in four.

Yorkshire (probable): Lyth, Kohler-Cadmore, Ballance, Root, Brook, Tattersall, Bess, Thompson, Patterson (captain), Coad, Olivier.

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