By Graham Hardcastle
Yorkshire’s bowling attack is going through changes galore, but in Ben Coad they have a seamer who looks set to be central to their plans for years to come.
Jack Brooks, Liam Plunkett and Azeem Rafiq are all leaving the club at the end of the season, while five-time Championship winner Ryan Sidebottom retired last season.
Coad, however, has been a shining light through the uncertainty, highlighted by his second-innings five-for in last week’s Specsavers Division One Roses win over Lancashire at Emerald Headingley.
Since debuting in the Championship midway through 2016 against Durham at the Riverside – his only match that season – he has taken 91 wickets from 20 appearances at an average of 19.68.
The 24-year-old returned to Yorkshire’s team last week after three games out with a side injury.
Speaking ahead of this week’s clash with Hampshire at Emerald Headingley, captain Steve Patterson said: “The challenge for him will be his body and getting used to the rigours of playing week in, week out.
“If he can stay fit and strong, he will be pivotal to our attack and a real asset to the club.
“He had to wait a while for his opportunity. He was 23 when he got a chance. It was similar with me. I had to wait a while for my chance.
“But when I came in, I felt I was ready. Ben proved that last year, and he was superb. He’s backed it up this year.”
Of those aforementioned 91 wickets, 40 of them have come in seven matches this season, including two five-wicket hauls and one of six.
“We know what Ben’s capable of. We’ve seen it last year and this,” said Patterson.
“It was touch and go whether he’d play (against Lancashire) because of the side strain he had a few weeks back.
“Had we had a four-man seam attack, he probably wouldn’t have played because of the workloads he’d have to get through. We felt Coady just bowling with the new ball on that surface would outweigh the value of a spinner. It was the right call.”
Coad’s second-innings 5-24 against the Red Rose, who were chasing 230, helped to secure a 95-run win which leaves Yorkshire within touching distance of Division One safety with two matches to play.
They need a maximum of 18 points from clashes with Hampshire at home, starting on Tuesday, and then Worcestershire at New Road next week to avoid relegation.
Hampshire have won their last two matches against Worcestershire and Somerset.
“That Lancashire win gives us a little bit of breathing space, and the character we are showing, we should be alright in the next couple of games,” added Coad.
“It was an outstanding win, especially when you look at where we came from on the first day – them 100 for none replying to 209.
“Hampshire are going nicely, but we’ll back ourselves all the way.”
On his return to fitness, he added: “It was a frustrating time watching from the sidelines, and I was just itching to get back out there and get some wickets. Thankfully I did it.”
Meanwhile, England limited overs all-rounder David Willey will miss the final two weeks of the season as he recovers from the back injury he suffered in the build-up to the recent draw against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.