Rejuvenated McGrath wins support of Yorkshire chief Moxon

MARTYN MOXON has hailed Anthony McGrath for the manner in which the former Yorkshire captain is bouncing back from a frustrating 2009.

The former England all-rounder had a disappointing year as the Tykes narrowly avoided relegation in the County Championship and his form dipped as the stresses of leadership took their toll.

McGrath stepped down as captain at the end of the season and was replaced by Andrew Gale, the hope being that handing over the responsibility of captaincy would trigger a revival in fortune.

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And after a steady if slow start to 2010, the Bradford-born

34-year-old has been as good as his word with a remarkable run of form in the four-day competition.

In each of his last seven innings, McGrath has passed 50 with the 112 he plundered off the Essex attack at Scarborough being his highest score.

McGrath's average going into today's Roses encounter at Headingley Carnegie stands at a little over 54, in stark contrast to 2009 when it stood at just 33.

Yorkshire's director of professional cricket Moxon said: "I am pleased for him. After all the frustrations of last year, it is great to see him in the runs and enjoying his cricket again."

Asked just how difficult 2009 had been for McGrath during his own and Yorkshire's struggles, Moxon added: "It is important (for the coaching staff) to support the captain as much as we can when he is going through difficult circumstances and that is what we tried to do last season.

"Knowing his character, I was certain he would be okay but it was also important that the support was there. In the end, he stayed strong and we got the results we needed. I think that was a great testament to Mags' character.

"He is on a great run of form at the moment and I am sure his focus now is on turning those good scores into more hundreds."

The scoring exploits of Adam Lyth, who needs 147 runs in the next three days to reach the notable landmark of 1,000 first-class runs before the end of May, have maybe left McGrath's own efforts in the shade.

Moxon, however, is in no doubt as to the value McGrath has in the Yorkshire set-up.

He said: "He is a quality player and Yorkshire are a better side with Anthony McGrath in the team and scoring runs.

"He is also a calming influence in the dressing room."

Yorkshire go into today's meeting with Lancashire on the back of a drawn encounter with Hampshire that petered out amid criticism from the Rose Bowl crowd that the visitors had been guilty of batting out for the stalemate. Moxon, though, believes the barbed comments aimed at his side on Thursday were well wide of the mark with it being

circumstances – namely, 16 overs being lost to rain on that final day – that dictated the late declaration from the White Rose county.

He said: "The weather did not help us at all. Going into the last day, it was always going to be a tough declaration to make because the pitch was, if anything, getting better as the game progressed.

"Losing time on the final morning to rain then made it almost

impossible and that was why the game petered out.

"I know the declaration went against us at Taunton (the previous week when Somerset beat Yorkshire by six wickets) but if we had been facing the same scenario at the Rose Bowl then we would have done the same again.

"Unfortunately, the weather meant the opportunity did not come up."

Lancashire make the trip across the Pennines as the only unbeaten side in either division of the County Championship and sit third in the table, nine points behind their great rivals but with a game in hand.

Just like Yorkshire, Peter Moore's men have claimed three victories in the four-day competition – though their highest total to date is the 354 that helped clinch victory over Warwickshire at Edgbaston earlier this month.

In contrast, Yorkshire have breached the 400-mark five times in 2010 with the 610-6 declared against Durham in April representing the season's high point.

Match Focus

n Lancashire form

The Red Rose county are the only remaining unbeaten side in either division of the County Championship this season after Essex's push for a win was thwarted at Old Trafford on Thursday. Lancashire started 2010 with back-to-back victories over Warwickshire and Essex, while their other triumph came at Edgbaston when the home side were beaten by 65 runs.

n One to watch

Sajid Mahmood: Enjoying a decent season with both bat and ball, having taken 20 wickets and also hit four half-centuries. His most recent crucial knock came earlier this week against Essex when a defiant 58 went a long way to preserving Lancashire's unbeaten record by ensuring they avoided the follow-on.

n Yorkshire squad

Gale (captain), Sayers, Lyth, McGrath, Rudolph, Bairstow, Rashid, Wainwright, Patterson, Best, Hannon-Dalby, Pyrah, Shahzad.

n Weather

The Met Office are predicting a mixed bag during the game, with the worst of the weather expected today before clearing up ahead of Sunday.

n Last time

August 19-22, 2009: Lancashire 276 (WS Laxman 50, MJ Chilton 111*; AU Rashid 5-97) and 196-2dec (MB Loye 84*, WS Laxman 65*) drew with Yorkshire 429 (GL Brophy 99, AU Rashid 157*).

n Head-to-head

Of the 249 County Championship games played, Yorkshire have won 74, Lancashire 50 and 125 have been drawn.