YORKSHIRE first-team coach Andrew Gale insists that he is unconcerned that Somerset are threatening to run away with the County Championship as his side look to rein them in against Warwickshire this week.
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The leaders moved 36 points clear of third-placed Yorkshire with victory over Kent at Canterbury – their fifth in six matches to go with one draw, raising hopes in the West Country of Somerset’s first Championship crown.
Yorkshire have consistently played down any suggestion that they have the capacity to win their 34th Championship with a largely young and developing squad.
But the sense of frustration has been clear in the camp after a number of rain-affected games recently which has hampered Yorkshire’s hopes of keeping pace with the leaders.
“We can only do what we can do,” said Gale, whose side are the only other unbeaten one in the First Division after two wins and four draws.
“Somerset have had a fantastic start to the season; they’re the team to beat at the minute.
“They’re playing the cricket that we played in periods when we won the Championship (in 2014/2015), grasping results when other teams aren’t.
“We said from the start of the season that we’re not the finished article, and we’ve just got to keep doing what we can do and see where that takes us.”
Although it suits Yorkshire to be moving along under the radar, they have proved themselves capable of potentially pushing Somerset all the way.
Handsome victories over Hampshire and Kent were evidence of that capability, but they have been held back by three successive draws, the last of them a rain-ruined affair against Surrey at Guildford.
Yorkshire could do with a victory over second-bottom Warwickshire in a week in which Somerset do not have a match.
It is the first first-class game to be played in York for 129 years as Headingley is needed for the World Cup.
“Warwickshire had a tough start to the season but they’re certainly not a team to be under-estimated,” said Gale. “But if we play the cricket that we know we can play, then we can certainly beat them.”
Plenty of interest/novelty value surrounds the fixture at Clifton Park, where Warwickshire captain Jeetan Patel played at the start of his career.
The 39-year-old continues to give Warwickshire yeoman service; he is the joint-leading wicket-taker in Division One along with Somerset’s Lewis Gregory with 35 victims at 16.34.
“Jeetan Patel is an outstanding cricketer and their main threat with the ball,” said Gale.
“I don’t want him bowling us out so I wouldn’t imagine that the pitch will be ragging square from day one, particularly with the weather that we’ve had.
“It should be an exciting week; there’s going to be a good buzz around it, and I know all the members are looking forward to going to the venue at York.
“Just fingers-crossed we have some good weather, because it’s been immensely frustrating these last few weeks.”
Yorkshire are without Duanne Olivier, the South African pace bowler who injured his right hip at Surrey.
The club have yet to put a timeframe on his return but will want him fit for the following Championship match against Surrey at Scarborough that begins on Sunday week, where they feel he could be a major threat on one of the country’s fastest pitches.
Yorkshire continue to be without Tim Bresnan (calf) and Matthew Waite (ankle), while Dom Bess has returned to Somerset after his loan spell.
But England all-rounder David Willey comes back into the squad after missing the Guildford trip due to family reasons.
The key to success will depend in no small part on the batting, which was again found wanting at Surrey as the side slipped from 58-1 to 148 all-out on the final day as they fell 16 runs short of avoiding the follow-on.
Although it did not prove costly, with Yorkshire advancing to 30-0 in their second innings before the match ended, Gale felt that the players were not switched on.
Of more encouragement was a second successive half-century opening stand between Adam Lyth and Will Fraine after the club had gone 13 months without one in first-class cricket prior to the match against Essex at Headingley.
“We’ve had two opening partnerships now, one of 70-odd and one of 50-odd, which is something that we haven’t had for a long time, so that’s encouraging signs,” said Gale. “Will Fraine has fitted in really well. He looks like he’s settled into first-class cricket. He’s been in good form in the second team and deserves his chance.”