Yorkshire Vikings v Birmingham Bears – Star quality should ensure T20 Blast off at Headingley

PAUL GRAYSON, the Yorkshire batting coach, has said that there are no excuses for the club not to get their T20 Blast campaign off to a positive start.

England duo Jonny Bairstow, right, and Dawid Malan should help ensure Yorkshire Vikings get off to a solid start in this year's Vitality T20 Blast. Picture: AP/Aijaz Rahi
England duo Jonny Bairstow, right, and Dawid Malan should help ensure Yorkshire Vikings get off to a solid start in this year's Vitality T20 Blast. Picture: AP/Aijaz Rahi

Yorkshire go into their opening game against Birmingham Bears at Emerald Headingley tonight (6.30pm) looking to put behind them a disappointing record in the 20-over tournament.

They are one of only five counties along with Derbyshire, Durham, Glamorgan and Gloucestershire never to have won the competition and have only twice reached Finals Day in its 18-season history.

Yorkshire have not qualified for the knockout stages since 2016.

England's Adil Rashid is available once again for Yorkshire. Picture: AP/Rafiq Maqbool

But with England white-ball internationals Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid available for the first five games in the 14-match group stage, along with the world’s No 1-ranked T20 batsman in Dawid Malan, Grayson believes that they should start the campaign strongly as the club seeks to break its T20 duck.

“Obviously we’ll have some great personnel around [at the start],” said Grayson. “Rash is around, Jonny is around, Mala [Malan], and so on.

“So there’s no excuses not to get a good start.

“Everybody will be talking the same this time of year, trying to get a good campaign going, but we feel with the personnel we’ve got that we could go pretty well this year in this competition.”

ADDED FIREPOWER: New Zealand's Lockie Ferguson celebrates the wicket of England's Jonny Bairstow during a ODI at Bay Oval in February, 2018. Picture: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz/SWPix.com

Grayson’s optimism seems well-founded, even though T20 history is against the White Rose.

Bairstow is playing his first T20 for Yorkshire since the semi-final defeat to Durham in 2016, while Rashid is playing his first cricket for the club in any competition since early 2019.

Throw in the capture of New Zealand fast bowler Lockie Ferguson, one of the stars of the 50-over World Cup in England two years ago, and the infusion of star quality speaks for itself.

And although Yorkshire have struggled to score runs consistently in the County Championship this year, having the fewest number of batting points in the country before achieving their highest total (558) for five years in last week’s win against Sussex, a T20 line-up containing Bairstow, Malan, Adam Lyth, Tom Kohler-Cadmore and captain David Willey, among others, possesses fireworks aplenty.

HELPING HAND: Yorkshire batting coach, Paul Grayson. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“I’m pleased that I’m not a head coach any more because there are certainly some tough selection decisions,” added Grayson, who previously held that role at Essex.

“I’m just the batting coach now who gets asked my advice a little bit, so I can leave the tough decisions to Galey [first-team coach Andrew Gale] and to Dave Willey.

“We’ve certainly got a lot of players with the ability to bat at the top of the order, players with different skills and qualities, and we’re really looking forward to the T20 campaign.

“We’ve got a lot of touch players, stroke players; we’ve got left-handers, right-handers – so, on paper, it looks a really exciting unit, but, as we know, it’s about producing the goods over the white line.”

As to why Yorkshire have struggled in T20, Grayson points to a lack of consistency.

He also believes that they need to improve their away record.

“I think it’s a bit of consistency, really,” he said. “As a group, the record suggests that we’re outstanding at Headingley, but we’ve got to be better away from home – places like Chesterfield, where we tend to lose every year. They can be the make-and-break, whether you go through and qualify for Finals Day, or certainly get to quarter-finals, so we’ve got to be a little bit better away from home, a bit smarter, a bit more savvy how we’re going to go about things.

“We know Headingley. We know the conditions. It’s a great pitch, and it does suit our style of play, but sometimes you’ve got to play a little bit different away from home, and play ugly and win matches, and that’s what we’ve got to learn to do.”

Bairstow is set to open with Lyth, with Kohler-Cadmore dropping to No 4.

The Lyth-Kohler-Cadmore opening partnership has been a big positive for Yorkshire in white-ball cricket but, regardless of where Kohler-Cadmore bats, Grayson is backing the powerful right-hander to rediscover his mojo having made 194 runs in eight Championship games.

“It’s a strange one,” he said. “I think that Tom has looked in good form – all season’s he’s never looked horrendous, and he’s just got out in some really strange ways.

“If he was getting out the same way all the time, I think we’d be a bit concerned, but he’s got out to some odd shots.

“I’m not overly worried about him.

“I think what Galey’s tried to do is keep picking him and show that consistency, keep the faith and you think that at some stage he’s going to turn it around with a big score.

“Now we go into T20 cricket and that might be a good little break for him, to get away from red-ball cricket, where he can just really free up and enjoy our T20 campaign.”

Tonight’s game, which is a sell-out, could see Yorkshire come up against their former all-rounder Tim Bresnan for the first time since he left the club last summer.

Bresnan performed well in a couple of T20 warm-up matches this week.

Yorkshire (from): Bairstow, Brook, Ferguson, Fraine, Hill, Kohler-Cadmore, Lyth, Malan, Olivier, Rashid, Shutt, Thompson, Waite, Willey (captain).