Batting coach Paul Grayson says Yorkshire’s away form must improve if they are to secure their maiden title in the Vitality Blast.

The Vikings have never won the Blast, a competition which has been running since 2003, and have only ever reached Finals Day twice.

It is a statistic which irks coaches, players and supporters at Emerald Headingley.

But a new year brings fresh hope, and the squad Yorkshire have assembled looks to have every chance of breaking their longstanding duck.

Their away form is clearly an issue. In the last five seasons prior to this, they have only won 10 Blast games on the road compared to 18 on home turf at Emerald Headingley.

The Vikings first chance to better that record comes against Durham at Emirates Riverside tonight (6.30pm).

“I think it’s a bit of consistency that’s needed,” said Grayson.

“Our record suggests we’re outstanding at Headingley, but we have to be better when we go away from home to places like Chesterfield, where we tend to lose every year.

“They can be the make or break as to whether you get through to the quarter-finals.

“We have got to be a bit smarter and be more savvy away from home.

“We know Headingley, the conditions, it’s a great pitch, and it suits our style of play.

“But sometimes you have to play a bit differently away from home, maybe play ugly and win matches that way.

“The personnel we’ve got – Jonny Bairstow is going to be around for a bit, Adil Rashid, Dawid Malan – there’s no excuses.

“We feel we can go pretty well in this competition this year.”

While Yorkshire opened their 2021 account with a victory over Birmingham Bears at Headingley last night, this represents Durham’s opening game of the campaign.

Alex Lees has been ruled out of the whole group stage with a broken hand, while Ben Stokes is closing in a return to action from a broken finger.

It is not out of the question that he could feature against the Vikings.

Durham have Australian and South African batsmen Cameron Bancroft and David Bedingham as their overseas players.

Squad

Andrew Gale has named an unchanged squad for the trip to Durham tonight.

14-man squad to face Birmingham Bears

Jonny Bairstow (Wicketkeeper)
Harry Brook
Lockie Ferguson
Will Fraine
George Hill
Tom Kohler-Cadmore
Adam Lyth
Dawid Malan
Duanne Olivier
Adil Rashid
Jack Shutt
Jordan Thompson
Matthew Waite
David Willey (Captain)

A look at the opposition – Durham

Coach: James Franklin

Captain: TBC

Last Year’s Performance: Fourth (North Group)

2020 Leading Runscorer: Alex Lees (365, 52.14)

2020 Leading Wicket Takers: Matty Potts (13, 18.07), Paul Coughlin (13, 16.23)

Overseas players: Cameron Bancroft (Australia – whole tournament), David Bedingham (South Africa – whole tournament)

Key man: Cameron Bancroft – Durham’s batting beyond the powerplay has been an issue for two seasons. Bancroft should be able to use his expansive strokeplay to maintain the pace of the innings.

Flies under the radar: Graham Clark – Clark has been quietly impressive at the top of the order. Clark provides a spark from the off, notching two fifties last term with a strike rate of 171.71.
Best Player Under 24: Matty Potts – Potts broke his own career-best figures in the Blast three times in 2020. He was accurate and deadly bowling in the powerplay. Potts will be a key player this term.

Blast expectations: Durham fell agonisingly short of the quarter-finals for the second Blast campaign in a row. James Franklin’s side received outstanding contributions from individuals, notably Lees, Clark, Potts, Coughlin and Ben Raine. However, in the crunch moments, Durham were not able to rise to the occasion. There is not a great deal of turnover in the squad, losing former captain Nathan Rimmington, Scott Steel and Farhaan Berhardien, none of whom excelled last term.
Bancroft should provide experience and the ability to clear the fence in the middle order that has been sorely lacking. David Bedingham will also be richer for his experience last year. The batting ranks look solid, while a core of bowlers of Potts, Coughlin and Brydon Carse at their peak is an exciting prospect. Look for a quarter-final push from Durham in the 2021 season.

The Key Statistics

• This will be Yorkshire’s 35th T20 match against Durham – the most they have played against any county.
• Durham’s highest score at home against Yorkshire is 215 for six in 2013 but Yorkshire have never scored over 200 in a T20 match at Chester-le-Street, its best being 186 for eight in 2014.
• Jonny Bairstow scored 102 not out at Chester-le-Street in 2014 but no Durham batsman has made a century against Yorkshire in T20 cricket, home or away, the best being 91 not out by Greg Clark at Headingley in 2015 and 91 by Phil Mustard at Chester-le-Street in 2013.
• Yorkshire’s best bowling figures in this series, home or away, are five for 11 by Jack Shutt at Chester-le-Street in 2019 but no Durham bowler has ever taken five wickets in an innings against Yorkshire, the best being four for 25 by Mark Wood on finals day at Edgbaston in 2016.
• Richard Pyrah (5-16 at Scarborough in 2011) and Jack Shutt (5-11 at Chester-le-Street in 2019) are the only bowlers to take five wickets in an innings in T20 matches between these two counties. Durham’s best is four for 25 by Mark Wood in the semi-final at Edgbaston in 2016.

HOW TO FOLLOW

There will also be a match blog on the website, and the clips available via the match centre. Highlights will also be available after the game.

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