Yorkshire Vikings v Leicestershire Foxes: Knockout stage is minimum target for Yorkshire

Alex Lees will lead a youthful-looking Yorkshire Vikings into Twenty20 action this summer, one that is expected to do better than the county has managed in recent seasons
Alex Lees will lead a youthful-looking Yorkshire Vikings into Twenty20 action this summer, one that is expected to do better than the county has managed in recent seasons
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MARK ARTHUR is expecting Yorkshire to reach at least the quarter-finals of the NatWest T20 Blast.

The county’s chief executive has outlined his target for the tournament ahead of Yorkshire’s opening match against Leicestershire at Headingley today (7pm start).

Yorkshire have one of the poorest T20 records, having only once reached Finals Day, back in 2012.

Last year they finished second-bottom of the nine-county North Group after eight defeats in 14 games.

Asked what his expectations are this year, Arthur replied: “Quarter-finals.

“My expectations are actually consistent every year – top-three in the Championship, because you never know what the vagaries of the weather will be; to perform well in the 50-overs competition and hopefully get to a Lord’s final, and to reach the T20 quarters.

“All three are pretty realistic, and although you can’t guarantee silverware in any competition, we certainly believe we can challenge in all three tournaments.”

Yorkshire have not reached the T20 quarters since 2012, when they finished runners-up to Hampshire before going on to take part in the T20 Champions League.

Their form in T20 has been in stark contrast to their form in four-day cricket, with the club having won back-to-back Championships.

“In the last couple of years we’ve failed to get into the T20 quarter-finals, and I think for a club of our standing and ability that’s not acceptable,” said Arthur.

“That’s something that we all agree with at the club.

“In a 14-game programme, we should be getting into the top-four of our division.

“But I do think that we go into this year’s competition with confidence, and we’re very much looking forward to competing.”

That confidence also stems from off-field activity since last year’s campaign.

Since then, Yorkshire have signed England World T20 star David Willey (he misses today’s game with a stomach injury but should return at Worcester next Thursday).

Last winter, the club appointed Alex Lees as their specialist one-day captain and they allowed first-team coach Jason Gillespie to coach the Australian Big Bash League franchise Adelaide Strikers, where he was joined by fellow Yorkshire coach Rich Pyrah in a forward-thinking move seen by Arthur as beneficial all round.

“We agreed to let Jason go to Adelaide Strikers in order to 
improve his coaching skills in the white-ball game and Rich 
joined him out there,” continued Arthur.

“The appointment of Alex Lees as one-day captain has also brought a new dimension and approach to our white-ball cricket, and it has been agreed that our bowling line-up will be younger and more specialist going forward.

“It is very difficult for bowlers to go constantly from red-ball to white-ball cricket and the best way is to have white-ball specialists, mirroring the strategy of England and countries around the world.

“Obviously, we’re without David Willey at the moment, and also Kane Williamson, our overseas batsman who joins us next month, but we’re confident of doing better in T20 this year.”

It promises to be an important few days for Yorkshire in general, with their Royal London Cup campaign starting on Tuesday week and with a crunch fixture against Lancashire in the Championship beginning at Headingley on Sunday.

Lancashire lead the Championship after three wins from their first five games, with fourth-placed Yorkshire having failed to hit top gear so far as they chase their cherished ambition of a hat-trick of titles.

Reflecting on Yorkshire’s Championship form, Arthur said: “I think it’s fair to say that it’s been a patchy start so far.

“We probably haven’t bowled with the discipline that we’ve bowled with in the last couple of years, but we’re still firmly in the mix and there’s plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

“We’ve got this terrific clash with Lancashire over the Bank Holiday weekend, and we’re expecting some very large crowds to watch that game.

“We haven’t played Lancashire in the Championship for a couple of years, and with them having started off so well this season, I think there’ll be quite a lot riding on that match.”