Yorkshire v Lancashire: All-round team effort taking us forward – Moxon

MARTYN MOXON admits table-topping Yorkshire are exceeding even his own expectations as the County Championship season approaches the halfway stage.

The White Rose county lead the way in Division One ahead of the resumption today of cricket's oldest rivalry when Lancashire make the short trip across the Pennines to Headingley Carnegie.

Persistent rain ruled out the chance of any play on the first day of the 250th championship Roses match at Headingley Carnegie, however.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

After several seasons of fighting relegation, and being written off by the bookmakers before a ball had been bowled in anger this year, Yorkshire occupying pole position represents a remarkable turnaround in fortune.

And Moxon, the county's director of professional cricket, admits the extent of the revival – Yorkshire also top Group B of the Clydesdale Bank 40 League with four wins from as many outings – has surprised even him.

He said: "If I am honest, the season has so far exceeded the expectations I had going into the season. I was hoping we would have a good start and hoping we would perform well but the team have probably done a bit more.

"The most pleasing aspect is everyone has contributed to the successes we have had, including the young players. We are not relying on just one or two players, which is a very positive aspect of the season.

"It is a case of so far, so good. But we know a lot of hard work lays ahead if we are to maintain the start we have had."

Yorkshire, boosted by the return of Ajmal Shahzad, will go into today's 250th Roses encounter looking to claim a first victory over Lancashire in the LV County Championship since 2002.

In terms of triumphing on home soil, the White Rose has to go back a further year to the county's last title-winning season for a win at Headingley.

Lancashire, who sit third in the table, do boast a more recent success – triumphing in Leeds by an innings and 126 runs in 2007.

Otherwise, however, the story of Roses cricket in recent years has been one of drawn fixtures with nine of the last 10 ending in stalemates.

Whether that will be extended over the next four days, only time – and, bearing in mind today's unsettled forecast, maybe the weather – will tell but Moxon is adamant that the two title challengers will be going all out for victory.

Moxon said: "There is an extra buzz around a Roses game, the history of the fixture sees to that along with the rivalry of being either side of the Pennines.

"It still has that extra ingredient. Both teams get on well, just as they did during my time as a player. But there is a fierce sense of competition between the two sets of players.

"This year there is also the added element of both sides' league positions. Both Lancashire and ourselves want to win to keep our encouraging starts going."

Asked whether he felt the extra significance attached to a Roses fixture in the two dressing rooms meant a desire to avoid defeat had been a factor in the flurry of draws, Moxon replied: "I am not too sure about that. I think maybe a combination of the pitches and the weather is probably an explanation as to why there have been so many draws.

"The pitches at both Headingley and Old Trafford have, in recent years, been quite batsman friendly.

"I think it will be very competitive and a difficult match. Lancashire are a hard team to beat. They have a fighting spirit and quality running right through their team.

"But we are also playing really well and I hope we can maintain that to get ourselves in a strong position to push on and force the win."

Shahzad's return to the Yorkshire fold after a month away on England duty follows his failure to make the Test side to face Bangladesh at Lord's.

The 24-year-old returned north yesterday to be reunited with his county team-mates, who are pleased to welcome back someone who featured in the first three Championship games of the season and made useful contributions with both bat and ball

Moxon said: "We are delighted to have Ajmal back. He did well at the start of the season for us and was an important member of the squad.

"I have not seen him yet as the lads had a day off (yesterday) after getting back from Hampshire late on Thursday but he has been practising with the England lads so should be fine.

"He has been away a month and I am sure being away in that environment will have helped his development. He will know what is required if he wants to keep progressing.

"Ajmal finished last season very strongly so I can't say he has stepped up a gear or anything like that. But we were pleased with the start he made and hope he can come back to make an impact."

Adam Lyth is looking to become the first county cricketer to reach 1,000 first-class runs by the end of May since Graeme Hick achieved the feat 22 years ago.

Lyth has the first three days of the 250th Roses encounter to hit the 147 runs required to reach such a notable milestone.