Yorkshire CCC v Lancashire CCC – Every point counts in Roses County Championship showdown

MARTYN MOXON wants Yorkshire to stop “winning the hard way” and get their punches in first as opposed to playing catch-up.

IMPRESSIVE: Harry Brook has shwon impressive form of late for Yorkshire. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com
IMPRESSIVE: Harry Brook has shwon impressive form of late for Yorkshire. Picture by John Clifton/SWpix.com

The county’s director of cricket has been delighted with results in the County Championship, with Yorkshire already through to Division One ahead of their final group game against Lancashire.

They lead the Red Rose county, who have also qualified, by two points at the top of Group Three.

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However, after Yorkshire booked their place with a 53-run win at Northamptonshire, where they once more fought back from a poor first innings batting display that has been a theme of their season, Moxon set the challenge of winning more comfortably.

Yorkshire’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

“We’re winning, but we’re winning the hard way at times,” he said. “We can’t be too critical because we are winning games, which is fantastic, but we’d still like to be able to get those higher first innings totals in an ideal world so we’re not fighting back all the time but leading from the front and getting that first punch in.

“The lads have been extremely good this year at fighting back, which is absolutely great, but I guess, from a coach’s point of view, we’d all like it to ) be a slightly different way of winning. But the bottom line is, we’re winning, and ultimately results are what matter.”

Three of Yorkshire’s five Championship wins have come in close contests. The Northamptonshire match was just the latest case in point – albeit not quite so stark as when Yorkshire beat them by a single run at Headingley in May.

Yorkshire also won a tight match against Sussex at Hove and fought back strongly against this week’s opponents in the Roses fixture at Old Trafford, recovering from 40-7 on day one before finally succumbing in the closing stages of day four.

PROMISING: George Hill scored an impressive 71 after being thrust into the role of makeshift opener at Northampton. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

Yorkshire owe their old rivals a punch or two this week and although both clubs have qualified for Division One, it is no dead rubber. Indeed, with the top two from each of the three groups going into Division One, the third and fourth-placed sides into Division Two, and the fifth and sixth-placed teams into Division Three, and with clubs not playing the side that they advance with in the next divisional stage, points are instead carried through from their meetings in the group.

In other words, Lancashire already carry through into Division One half of the 22 points that they gained for beating Yorkshire by an innings at Old Trafford (11 points), and Yorkshire, who took only one point from that game, carry through half-a-point; ditto the points accrued in the game that starts tomorrow.

This added complexity is because even though each division, like each group, comprises six teams, clubs play only four games in the divisional stage – facing the four sides that they have not already encountered, home or away, the upshot being that every Roses point counts.

“It’s certainly an important game for us,” said Moxon, “and with us only getting one point at Old Trafford, we need as many points as we can from this match to take into the next stage.

“We fought back well at their place and were disappointed to lose after another tough first innings. It’s certainly not through lack of trying that we’ve struggled to get consistent first innings totals, and going forward it’s still an area we know that we can massively improve.”

Yorkshire set the template – and showed what they are capable of – when scoring 558 in the first innings of their last home Championship match, against Sussex, their highest total for over five years. However, it is an outlier on their record, with Yorkshire having failed four times in nine games to achieve a single batting point.

At least there were positives at Northampton – George Hill’s 71 after being thrust into the role of makeshift opener, for one.

“George was excellent,” said Moxon. “He has lots of potential and a sound technique.”

Also Harry Brook’s second innings century.

“Harry will get a lot of confidence from that,” added Moxon, “and you can only see him going from strength to strength now.”

A certain James Anderson of Lancashire will provide a different challenge, although Yorkshire are boosted by the absence of fellow Lancashire bowlers Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson, who are part of England’s Covid SOS squad. But the general point is that stiffer tests await if Yorkshire are to bat well enough to go and win the title.

“If we can just get that little bit better, particularly at our first innings batting, then we’ll be an even better team and we’ll beat the best opposition by doing that,” said Moxon.