James Wharton believes this weekend’s two-day friendly fixture against Durham at Headingley, starting tomorrow, is the ideal way for Yorkshire to end their pre-season campaign.

Last year’s Division Two champions visit for a behind-closed-doors clash (11am) which will be the precursor to the opening round of Vitality County Championship fixtures next weekend.

Yorkshire’s opening fixture is against Leicestershire at home from Friday.

“Durham are a very good side, and they’ve made some good signings,” said batter Wharton.

“In Abu Dhabi, we played Warwickshire – a Div One team and a good outfit – and did well against them.

“This will be another good test to see where we’re at. It’s ideal leading us into next week.”

Captain Shan Masood is expected to lead Yorkshire across the two days against Scott Borthwick’s side.

James Wharton

Picture by John Heald. James Wharton pulls en-route to 58 not out in the second innings of last September’s draw at Leicestershire.

Wharton has enjoyed an encouraging run of performances in pre-season friendly cricket, chiefly scoring a pair of T20 half-centuries in Abu Dhabi against Somerset.

“I got lucky, played a few rash shots and got away with them That can happen in T20,” he said, in understated fashion. “But it was good fun out there.”

It has come on the back of a winter spent playing premier grade cricket in Perth for the Wanneroo club.

It was a mixed spell given the 23-year-old loved his time out there and is confident his game has improved since the end of last season. But, frustratingly, he didn’t get the runs – aside from a debut 99 – to highlight his development.

“I loved my four months out,” he said. “Everybody was great with me, and it was a fantastic club.

“It’s a different type of test to what we’re used to. But really, really good.

“Pretty much throughout the whole trip, I didn’t get the runs I would have wanted. Especially in the last month, it was clear it just wasn’t firing for me.

James Wharton and Shan Masood

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. James Wharton will be reunited with Shan Masood over the next couple of days.

“I just wanted to get back home and train in a familiar setting with coaches who I have worked a lot with, like Ali (Maiden)

“Since I’ve been back, going to Abu Dhabi and doing ok out there, I feel like my game has definitely come on from last year. The weaknesses I had last year and over in Australia, touch wood, I’ve ironed them out now.

“I’ve said it a few times. I don’t think I’ll be fully able to appreciate what being out in Perth has done for me until I’m back and in the thick of the season.”

On his lack of runs, Wharton said: “I got a 99 first game, and it was perfect because it settles you down straightaway. From then on, I couldn’t put my finger on why I struggled.

“People who know me know that I’m a bit of an over-thinker. After a few low scores, I would be trying to figure out what’s going wrong.

“And doing it out there when you haven’t got an Ali or my old man, who helps me with his two pence worth, can be tricky. I had plenty of eyes on my game out there, lads or coaches slinging at me and having a look. They were brilliant, but it’s not the same.”

Expanding on his comments about being an over-thinker, the Huddersfield-born youngster – such a highly-rated one within the Yorkshire set-up, continued: “I’ve always done it since being a kid, but I am getting better.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. James Wharton celebrates his T20 century against Worcestershire last summer.

“And last season, scoring the runs I did, was massive for me. I’ve turned a bit of a corner with it.

“It’s about me making sure that when things do go wrong, don’t try and change too much and stick to what works.

“When I was younger, if I’d have a bad net, I would think, ‘That means I’m not going to score any runs’. But it doesn’t work like that. That’s an example of the sort of thing I’ve got better at.”

Last summer, Wharton scored a Vitality Blast century – a brilliant 111 not out in a win over Worcestershire at Headingley. That was his standout innings, though he added five further half-centuries in the Championship and Metro Bank One-Day Cup.

They were all his first in first-team cricket, with four of those five fifties coming in the Championship, including three in September.

“It was definitely a positive summer for me,” he reflected.

“That T20 hundred was nice. I would have liked to have done better in the games after that, but I played the last four games in the Championship and did ok.

James Wharton on the way to fifty

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. James Wharton works through the leg-side last summer.

“If I could have converted one of those fifties into a hundred, that would have been really good.

“But the way I batted is the way I want to be batting – being positive, playing my shots and not being afraid to get out. If I go into my shell, that’s when I get myself into trouble.”

And he added: “For the team, I think we played a lot of good red ball cricket, but we were a bit unlucky with the weather.

“We feel in an even better place this year.”

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