ANDREW GALE believes there is “immense pressure” on the top-two of Essex and Somerset in the race to win the County Championship and that third-placed Yorkshire can fly under the radar with nothing to lose.
Although the side is inexperienced, it does feel like we’re coming out the other side of that transitional period a little bit now.Andrew Gale
The first-team coach is sticking to his line that Yorkshire “haven’t really spoken about winning the Championship” this season and that they are focusing solely on achieving more consistency in four-day cricket following successive relegation battles.
Yorkshire go into Sunday’s match against bottom club Nottinghamshire at Scarborough 38 points behind Essex and 34 behind Somerset with four games left.
They are outsiders to win a third Championship in six seasons but with three fixtures to come against teams in the bottom four, and with Somerset and Essex playing each other at Taunton in the last round, it is not inconceivable that Yorkshire could pip them to the post.
Gale said: “Essex have been right up there for most of the season. Somerset have never won a Championship. We know from 2013 that when you start to chase something (Yorkshire finished second in 2013), you forget about what you’ve done well and chase something that’s in the distance and forget about the here and now, so there’s immense pressure on them.
“From our point of view, like I’ve said all season, we haven’t really talked about winning the Championship. For me, it’s about consistency and hammering our processes, and we feel that this year we’ve got a lot more consistency by doing that.
“We’ll go into our last four games with confidence and have got nothing to lose. We’ll just go under the radar and do what we do.”
After Nottinghamshire, who are winless in their 10 Championship games which have brought seven defeats and three draws, Yorkshire face their toughest remaining assignment on paper when they play Somerset at Taunton from September 10.
In addition to that match and the aforementioned match between Somerset and Essex, the other remaining games for Somerset are against Warwickshire (A) and Hampshire (A) and, for Essex, against Kent (A), Warwickshire (A) and Surrey (H). Yorkshire also meet Kent (H) and Warwickshire (A).
Despite insisting that Yorkshire are not contemplating the prospect of a title win this year, Gale believes that they have shown enough this summer to suggest that silverware is not far away.
They are predominantly a young team who were written off by many before the start of the season but they have also got a number of experienced campaigners who know what it takes to win the Championship crown.
“We are a young, developing team, but there’s certainly attributes in there to show that we can challenge in years to come right at the top of the table,” said Gale.
“The Championship has been our most reliable format this year, and we want to go Scarborough now and do ourselves justice and play the cricket that we know we can play, because we certainly haven’t done that in the other two formats (50-over cup and T20 Blast).
“Probably the one Championship game that let us down was the York game (when Yorkshire lost to Warwickshire by three wickets).
“That was a game that we felt we should have won, and we also had a couple of games washed out in which we were in a really good position and might have got over the line in at least one of them.
“Overall, though, I’m really pleased with the way the Championship season has gone so far. As a white-ball team, we are where we are, and we’ve been inconsistent in the one-day formats. But, in the four-day game, the signs have been good.”
So much so that Gale believes that Yorkshire are beginning to emerge from a period of transition following their back-to-back Championship titles under his captaincy in 2014/2015.
In the last few years, that team has steadily broken up to be replaced by a mixture of young players and fresh recruits.
“Although the side is inexperienced, it does feel like we’re coming out the other side of that transitional period a little bit now,” he said.
“Players are starting to stand up a bit more and they’re starting to learn from the mistakes that we’ve seen at times in the last two years.
“They’re starting to put match-winning performances in and really realising those key periods of games that you need to win, those periods which have let us down in recent times.
“I’ve always thought that the skill and the talent is there in that dressing room, but it takes time to build a successful team.”
Keshav Maharaj, the 29-year-old left-arm spinner, has been named in a 14-man squad after rejoining Yorkshire as an overseas player for the next two Championship matches.
Maharaj took match figures of 10-127 and scored 72 in Yorkshire’s last Championship outing – a thumping innings victory over Somerset at Headingley.