Yorkshire are two games away from achieving something very special.
The White Rose county are joint second in the LV= Insurance County Championship’s Division One table alongside Hampshire, 10.5 points behind leaders Nottinghamshire.
The winners of Division One will be crowned county champions, a third title in eight years if Yorkshire were to prevail.
Notts have 49 points, Yorkshire and Hampshire 38.5, this week’s opponents Warwickshire 36, Lancashire 31.5 and Somerset 23.5.
Steve Patterson and co face Warwickshire at Emerald Headingley, starting on Sunday (10.30am), with coach Andrew Gale enthusing: “The lads are coming into their best form of the season, so the signs are good.”
Gale comments come on the back of the most recent innings victory over Somerset, inside two days at Scarborough last Sunday and Monday, when Harry Brook and Matthew Fisher were the standout performers with a century and nine wickets in the match respectively.
“We’ve got nothing to lose,” continued Gale, whose side started the four-game Division One campaign bottom having only carried 4.5 points through from the initial group stage.
“We were the underdogs, but there will be teams looking at us saying, ‘Yorkshire are in good form!’
“Let’s just go and give it our best shot. Anything can happen, can’t it. We’ve probably got to win two out of two.
“We have a good record at Headingley. Win that game and you never know. It will be a brilliant week.”
A dominant draw at Hampshire, which saw the hosts hold on nine wickets down in the second innings, was followed by the Somerset win.
“You can always find little bits of improvement, but we pretty much played 99 percent of our best game against Somerset,” said Gale. “A two-day win against a really strong team was unbelievable.”
The remaining fixtures in Division One see leaders Notts face Hampshire at the Ageas Bowl in the forthcoming round, while the bottom two sides – Lancashire and Somerset – face off at Taunton.
In the final round, starting on September 21, Notts host Yorkshire at Trent Bridge, Warwickshire face Somerset at Edgbaston and Lancashire welcome Hampshire to Liverpool.
Warwickshire were the leaders at the start of the Division One campaign, but they have drawn with Lancashire and were beaten at home to Hampshire last week.
Yorkshire, meanwhile, have won six of 12 Championship games this season. Only Notts have matched that tally.
This is Gale’s fifth season in charge as coach, but has it been his favourite one to date?
“I think it is, yes,” he admitted. “It’s been so good to see people grasp their opportunities.
“We’ve played some good cricket and have won some nippers as well.
“The speed bump was that Blast quarter-final against Sussex.
“We’re desperate to go to a Finals Day!
“I drove back in the car with Rich Pyrah, two-and-a-half-hours from Durham, and we didn’t speak a word to each other. We were so flat and felt we’d missed the boat a bit.
“But I have really enjoyed this season. Two games left and a chance of winning the Championship, it’s fantastic.”
The performances of Brook and Fisher stood out against Somerset, Jordan Thompson’s all-round contribution as well on the final day. But one area of Yorkshire’s game which was exceptional was their catching.
Twelve dismissals across the two Somerset innings fell to catches behind the wicket, either to keeper Harry Duke or the slip cordon of Tom Kohler-Cadmore, Adam Lyth and Brook.
“We made a point of mentioning it after the game because the lads work really hard on their slip catching,” added Gale.
“We have a fielding machine that we carry everywhere, and it was a pain carrying it around in my small car – there are scratches everywhere – when we couldn’t have a coach. But it’s paid off.
“The lads are putting in the hard work and are getting the rewards.”
Warwickshire, who have signed West Indies fast bowler Chemar Holder as a late-season overseas player, failed to chase down down 296 against Hampshire on days three and four at Edgbaston earlier this week.
Since the Bears last won the Championship in 2012, their current captain Will Rhodes and fellow all-rounder Tim Bresnan have both won the title in Yorkshire colours in 2014 and 2015.
Bresnan, however, hasn’t played a Championship match since the start of June following injury and later selection.
Of course, the Championship title is not the only prize on offer. The top two sides in Division One will advance to the five-day Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord’s, starting on September 28.
Dawid Malan is available to play following the cancellation of the fifth LV= Insurance Test Match between England and India.
14-man squad to face Warwickshire
Harry Duke (Wicketkeeper)
Steve Patterson (Captain)
A look at the opposition – Warwickshire
Coach: Mark Robinson
Captain: Will Rhodes
Last Year’s Performance: Third (Central Group)
2020 Leading Runscorer: Will Rhodes (423, 52.88)
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Olly Hannon-Dalby (25, 20,92)
Overseas players: Pieter Malan (South Africa – full season)
Flies under the radar: Will Rhodes – As captain, Rhodes’ influence will be huge, but he has also quickly become integral to the Bears batting and also an under-rated threat with the ball.
Best Player Under 24: Dan Mousley – Director of cricket Paul Farbrace believes it is only a matter of time before the classy young batsman (19) plays for England and few who have seen him play disagree.
The Season Ahead: Warwickshire have under-performed in red ball cricket in the last two years but, under new first team coach Mark Robinson, there is a belief around Edgbaston that better fortunes await this year.
Three Bears legends – Jeetan Patel, Tim Ambrose and Ian Bell – retired at the end of last season, but the club’s academy is becoming productive with Henry Brookes, Rob Yates and Dan Mousley leading the young guns’ charge into the first team.
South African batsman Pieter Malan, available for the whole season, looks a shrewd addition as overseas player while former Hampshire and Sussex spinner Danny Briggs will take on the sizeable challenge of replacing Patel.
With England pair Dom Sibley and Olly Stone likely to be available for some early games, Warwickshire are targeting a strong start on which to build a serious tilt at bringing the championship title back to Edgbaston for the first time since 2012.
• Yorkshire have scored at least 500 in an innings in a home match against Warwickshire on five occasions, the highest being 561 for seven declared at Scarborough in 2007, but Warwickshire have never done so in Yorkshire, its highest being 482 at Headingley in 2011.
• There have been five double centuries for Yorkshire at home to Warwickshire but only one of these was scored at Headingley – 200 not out by Matthew Wood in 1998. There has been only one double century for Warwickshire in Yorkshire – 206 by Crowther Charlesworth at Dewsbury in 1914.
• Hedley Verity holds the records for both innings and match figures in this series. In 1930 he took 10 for 36 at Headingley and seven years later 14 for 92 on the same ground. Warwickshire’s best figures against Yorkshire are 10 for 51 by Harry Howell at Edgbaston in 1923 and 12 for 55 by Tom Cartwright at Bradford in 1969. (Warwickshire is the only county for whom one of its bowlers has taken ten wickets in an innings against Yorkshire, Howell’s feat combined with Verity’s making a unique pairing in matches involving Yorkshire.
HOW TO FOLLOW
You can keep up to date with proceedings via the live stream that will be available on yorkshireccc.com. There will also be a match blog on the website, and the clips available via the match centre. Highlights will also be available shortly following each days play.