Monday, 26 March 2007

Kirkstall Lane Enders – An everyday story of Yorkshire cricket folk

The story so far
It’s the start of the 2006 season, and Yorkshire are fresh from their promotion of 2005 and ready to start the new season in League 1. However, rumours of unrest abound at the club and one of those leaving is former England pace bowler, Chris Silverwood, to Middlesex. His departure, following the loss of Ryan Sidebottom (to Notts), Darren Gough (to Essex) and Steve Kirby (to Gloucestershire) leaves the club low on pace bowlers. Jason Gillespie is in as an overseas player, and it is hoped that he can replicate his old form, rather than that which we saw in the 2005 Ashes series.

The season starts inauspiciously, with a rain affected draw at Trent Bridge. However, the Notts total of over 400 for 8 is an indication of the struggle to bowl teams out. The frailties in the bowling are matched by those at the top of the order, where Joe Sayers, Matt Wood and Michael Lumb are in appalling form together. The team is thus heavily reliant on Anthony McGrath and Darren Lehmann for runs. The situation is perfectly summed up by the Hants game, where on the back of a McGrath century and a great all round performance by Tim Bresnan in the first innings, we set them over 400 to win, which they never look like not getting, losing only five wickets in the process.

Chris Silverwood then inspires a Middlesex victory, we lose by an innings to Sussex and we’re at the 20:20 stage of the season, rock bottom and we still haven’t taken twenty wickets in a match. All of a sudden, some form is found. We qualify for the 20:20 quarter finals and some confidence is taken from some strong performances. Of particular note is Gerard Brophy, our wicket-keeping pinch hitter, scoring 57 from 18 balls (13 fours) on TV against Derbyshire. Sadly the rain won that one.

The second half of the season begins with Lehmann injured but our first win (at Durham) with Gillespie (finally) and Bresnan both in the wickets and McGrath holding the batting together. Then we see the introduction of possibly the most promising spinner to come out of Yorkshire since Hedley Verity – Adil Rashid. Completely overshadowing Andrew Gale’s maiden century, Rashid ran through the Warwickshire second innings, taking a 6-fer as we won by an innings. Missing the next game, at Hampshire, (on England U19 duty taking an 8-fer and scoring a hundred in the process), his place is taken by another leggie, Mark Lawson, who also obliges with a 6-fer. However, despite Lumb’s ton, Hampshire win comfortably.

Two rain affected draws follow and we’re into the last three games of the season. Still in the relegation zone, we’ve got the three teams who are down there with us to play – Middlesex, Notts and Durham. Silverwood again inspires Middlesex, but Rashid and Lawson take all ten in their second innings, leaving Yorkshire needing 235 on the last day to win with all wickets standing – and it promptly rains all day. However, this result is more of a blow to Middlesex as they end up being relegated.

The game against Notts is the turning point. A White century and Rashid and Lawson getting 14 wickets in the match a win takes us out of the relegation zone and means we only need 10 points against Durham to survive. This is achieved largely through Darren Lehman’s amazing 339 in a total of 677 and then reducing Durham to 191 for 6. The job is done, the foot comes off the gas and Blenkenstein and Gibson put on over 300 for the next wicket, saving Durham and condemning Notts.

The off-season
Just when we thought the season itself was traumatic, the winter begins very badly. Player of the season by a country mile, Darren Lehmann has already announced that he is leaving, and he is followed by the underachieving Michael Lumb (to Hampshire) Also Craig White announces that he doesn’t want to captain the team any more.

Chris Adams is then unveiled as the new Director of Cricket, Coach and Captain, leaving previous coach David Byas to wonder what he is doing there. Byas eventually leaves, but so does Adams, when he realises that Yorkshire is a bit colder than Sussex (or something). Anthony McGrath then announces that he has no intention of ever playing for Yorkshire again. Yorkshire remind him that he’s under contract and the whole thing gets messy.

Into the breach rides the new Chief Executive, Stewart Regan. Not being a huge cricket fan when he started the job, he decided to talk to someone who does know a bit about Yorkshire cricket, and Geoffrey Boycott persuades Younus Khan to come over as the overseas player. His next coup was even greater as Jacques Rudolph decided to give up on South Africa for the next three years and signed as a Kolpak player. Darren Gough was then persuaded back as captain and Anthony McGrath decided that this is a team he can play in again. The final pieces in the jigsaw were the return of Martyn Moxon from Durham as coach and the promotion of Ian Dews from developing the best group of young players we’ve had for quite some time to Head of Cricket Operations.

Prospects for 2007
When I first wrote this in January, I was worried whether we’d get a team out and we were dertainties for relegation. Now it looks like we could be challenging for honours. The team for the first match will be along the lines of:

Craig White
Joe Sayers
Younus Khan – now they’re out of the World Cup
Anthony McGrath
Jacques Rudolph
Adil Rashid
Tim Bresnan
Gerard Brophy
Darren Gough
Jason Gillespie
Matthew Hoggard

which leaves Deon Kruis, Mark Lawson, Andy Gale, Matthew Wood and Simon Guy as cover. Plus some bloke called Vaughan, should he ever get the chance to play for us again.

To my mind, that should be a batting line up to match any in the division, and a bowling attack that has over 700 test wickets between them.

Key Man
Younus and Rudolph have big shoes to fill in replacing the 1700 runs that Lehmann scored. However, the key man is likely to be Tim Bresnan. He tasted the international scene last season, in the chastening series defeat to Sri Lanka, where he did no worse than most. If he wants to maintain that presence in the build up to the next World Cup, he needs a big season with bat and ball. Despite only being 22, he’s been around for years and now needs to kick on.

Rising Star
Jason Gillespie gave an interview saying that it would be wrong to put any pressure on him, but Adil Rashid is the best young cricketer in England. No pressure then!

Rashid is probably the most promising leggie onto the England scene for some time, and his performances with the bat show that he is a genuine all-rounder. However, he needs to be carefully handled to make sure he doesn’t go the same way as Chris Schofield. He toured with England A, but with the success of Monty Panesar in the England team as a genuine attacking spinner, there shouldn’t be the need to rush him further. A season of consolidation will do nicely.

Captain and Coach
Two true Yorkshire legends. Barnsley boys and old friends, Moxon and Gough have already turned the mood of the club round just by turning up. Moxon has a great track record with Durham. Gough should help us to be more competitive in the One Day game and should also be an inspiration to the raft of young fast bowlers who are looking to make the breakthrough. Strangely, and I didn't think I'd be writing this at the start of the year, the future looks bright.


The Village Cricketer said...

The attack may well have 700 test wickets between them, however Hoggard is unlikely to play more than thee championship matches and I will be amazed if both Gough and Gillespie stay fit for the full season. Good luck.

Chrispy said...

Good looking first class side, apart from the openers where I'd have question marks. Bowlers might get a hit a bit in the shorter version though, but do have great records behind them. Posibly stronger than last year, except for the loss of DS!

Tim said...

Great piece Richard. I feel the start is extremely important; if Yorkshire start badly things could all unravel. But, even with a slightly long tail, that side looks good enough to finish 3rd-6th in the Championship - quite an achievement after the tumultous off-season.

River Taff End said...

The future is bright for Yorkshire. I expect them to have a very good season.

Richard Lake said...

Thanks for the comments. In answer to some of the points, because he doesn't play ODIs, Hoggard should play seven matches for us this year, which is probably as many as he's played in the last three years together. I'd expect Gough to play about half the county games.

I'd agree with chrispy and we've been spectacularly unnsuccessful in the one day game (you'll notice I didn't mention it!) in the past few years. Gough will help, but I don't expect any success there.

The tail is all capable of batting and Gillespie was probably more useful with the bat than ball last year. More to the point all can hang around and that helped Lehmann and Mcgrath to some big scores being able to bat with the tail.