Andrew Gale has urged his players to attack Thursday’s Royal London One-Day Cup eliminator clash with Essex at Chelmsford and play with plenty of freedom.

The Vikings face the Eagles under lights (2pm) and in front of the Sky Sports cameras for the right to face Hampshire in Monday’s semi-final at the Ageas Bowl.

But they will have to do it without their handful of international stars.

Jonny Bairstow, who hasn’t played so far in the competition, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root and David Willey are all with England’s one-day squad. Che Pujara has also returned to India for their forthcoming one-off Test Match against Afghanistan.

“It’s going to be very difficult because we’re missing the core of our team,” said Gale.

“Four or five will be missing down there, so my message to the lads is ‘We’re massive underdogs going into that’.

“We’ve had a pretty settled side throughout the tournament, so it isn’t ideal. But it’s an opportunity to go there with a lot of freedom and play some positive cricket.”

Yorkshire have reached the knockout stages of the Royal London for five years running, but they have not reached the final in that period.

They beat Essex at Chelmsford in a quarter-final in 2015 before losing a home semi to Michael Klinger inspired Gloucestershire.

Whoever they field, Gale and company will take plenty of confidence into the tie.

They have won their last four North Group matches, three of them in nail-biting fashion, and beat Essex in the Championship at Chelmsford last month.

“You could say we’re in the entertainment business, and the last four games have certainly been that,” continued Gale, whose side secured qualification by beating Northamptonshire at Emerald Headingley on Thursday, recovering from 134-5 in pursuit of 242.

“But you get so much confidence out of the close games.

“On Thursday, I thought we showed a lot of character If we’re being honest, they shouldn’t have got anywhere near the score they did.

“It was still very chaseable, and we made hard work of it. But, fair play to Dave Willey first and then Jonny Tattersall and Gary Ballance, their partnership was fantastic (87 for the sixth wicket).”

Returning to the Essex clash, the hosts go into the fixture having finished second in the South, and they will have to decide whether to include England Test opener Alastair Cook for the first time in this season’s competition.

“They’ve been strong for a number of years,” said Gale.

“It’s a hard place to go, Chelmsford, but they’re certainly not unbeatable, which we proved in Championship cricket a few weeks ago. All I’d say is ‘Why not?’.”

One man available at Chelmsford is club captain Gary Ballance, who will not skipper the side following his recent personal problems. Steve Patterson will continue to deputise.

After missing the start of the tournament, Ballance has played in each of the last four wins, posting scores of 27, 38 and 66, the latter in superb fashion against Northants.

“It wasn’t ideal losing him, but he looks refreshed and raring to go,” added Gale. “He showed all his experience against Northants. He’s a very calm and cool customer under pressure.

“He’s an asset to us, no doubt about that.”

Meanwhile, Yorkshire’s potential semi-final at Hampshire on Monday has been switched from a 2pm to 11am start to avoid a clash with England’s World Cup football match against Tunisia.

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