Yorkshire’s forthcoming pre-season tour to Cape Town will play a vitally important role in the bid for LV= Insurance County Championship promotion, insists Ottis Gibson.

A return to Division One is the county’s number one priority for 2023, and the African adventure will be the first real opportunity for players to lay down a marker ahead of Leicestershire at Headingley on April 6. 

“If you picked teams on nets, you’d pick everyone because they all look good in the nets,” said the head coach, ahead of the departure a week tomorrow.

“But the good thing is that we’ve got good opposition in front of us, and I want to see how guys are shaping up. 

“If someone catches fire and gets into form, they could get themselves into the conversation for Leicestershire. That’s what I’m looking to see.”

Yorkshire are in South Africa for 14 days from March 8, and they have six scheduled match days. They are due to face Warwickshire in a pair of two-day games, the Bears and Northamptonshire in a day of triangular T20 cricket and the Netherlands in a 50-over fixture.

“Pre-season ticks two boxes really,” continued Gibson. “To get the lads outside and get in some warm weather training before the start of the season, and then to play against some quality opposition.

“We’re all excited and are looking forward to it. 

“I think we’ve had a really good winter period so far. 

“Of course, as a coaching staff, this is our first pre-season as such. We started before Christmas, and as of now it feels like everyone is ready to go.

“It’s coming at a really good time for us, and it will be nice to get the lads outside and just carry on from what we’ve been doing inside for the last few months.

“Cape Town is a fantastic place to go for a holiday, never mind a pre-season tour. And this will be very much about work for the lads.

“We have one or two practice days at Newlands, but our base will be at Claremont Cricket Club, which is a fantastic place. I’ve been there before and seen it, and they have great facilities.”

Aside from the international absentees, Yorkshire are travelling with a full squad, including the seam bowling Matts, Fisher and Milnes.

Fisher has just returned from an England Lions tour of Sri Lanka with a broken hand, while new signing Milnes is in the final stages of a recovery from a back stress fracture.

“Fish has got his broken hand, but it doesn’t stop him doing the other stuff. So he’s going to come with us and carry on his fitness training,” explained Gibson.

“Matt Milnes is coming along nicely now. We’re going to take him with us to ramp him up and try to get him somewhere near full fitness for the start of the season. I think he will be ready for the start of the season.

“What he does in terms of cricket will be very limited in South Africa, but there will be a progression for him.”

South Africa is a country Gibson knows all too well, having spent time there as an up and coming Barbados fast bowler and later as the coach of the national men’s team, the Proteas. 

“It’s a wonderful country with a fantastic cricket history,” he said.  “I saw how the women’s team reached the final of the T20 World Cup for the first time to add to that. That’s fantastic for them.”

?Aside from his work at Headingley, Gibson has had a busy winter, travelling to the UAE either side of Christmas for a pair of assistant coach franchise commitments.

He first travelled to the T10 League in Abu Dhabi before returning to the Gulf to work with champions Gulf Giants in the inaugural ILT20 competition.

“Dubai was nice,” he said. “I’m very grateful to the club for allowing me to carry on doing some franchise cricket. 

“I don’t do as much as I did. I was supposed to be in Pakistan now, but I said, ‘That’s too much, I have to focus on my job at Yorkshire’.

“But Dubai was a brilliant new competition. I took some of the fast bowlers from here for the experience for a couple of weeks. They got some warm weather training. Matty Revis went, Ben Mike and Ben Cliff as well. They got to experience that franchise environment whilst continuing their training outside.

“We had a really good team there, and to win it was amazing.”

Gibson smiles knowingly when the prospect of facing Warwickshire is raised, the team which survived in Division One ahead of Yorkshire on the final day of the 2022 season courtesy of a stunning nine-wicket haul for Liam Norwell against Hampshire at Edgbaston.

“I was wondering whether I should shake hands with him or not,” he said, revealing begrudging respect.

“Look, as a coach, even though it’s against you, you are kind of happy when you see that sort of thing from a bowler, especially one who has been out so long injured.

“It’s also a lesson for us. When the game is on the line, you want your best players to stand up. He certainly did that for his team. We will need a lot of that toughness over the next six months.

“We’ve moved on from that now.

“We’ve looked back at it and been honest. We know we should have done better in the last month of the season, but we should also have done better early on. After winning the first game, we drew the next five. That’s when we had our best team out, and we should have been pushing to win more games. 

“We should have won at Northants, and we’d have won against Kent had bad light not come in. The last month cost us, but so did the first month.”

And to return to one of the earlier points, Gibson added: “Getting out of the division is the main aim, whether it’s first or second. But we will walk out against Leicestershire trying to win the title. That’s for sure.

“The language we’ve been speaking with is that we want to be playing winning cricket all the way through. We want to win every game so there’s no desperation come September time.”

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