Shan Masood wants his Yorkshire side to get off to a flyer in this season’s Vitality County Championship, which starts tomorrow when Leicestershire visit Headingley (11am).

Captain Masood believes the first two-month block of Division Two action could be decisive if things go well.

Yorkshire will play seven four-day fixtures in eight weeks through to May 27. 

That means half of the campaign will have been played prior to the start of the Vitality Blast right at the end of next month.

“It’s important we get a good start – that we get out of the blocks quickly,” said Pakistan Test skipper Masood.

“Durham epitomised that last season. 

Leics squad

“They got out of the blocks so well, they almost retired that first position and everybody was fighting for second (Durham won four of their first six games). 

“We want to be the team who does that this season, and hopefully we can put in some good performances early on.”

Batting star Masood arrived at Headingley late last week ahead of his second season as Yorkshire’s overseas player, of which he is due to be available for its vast majority.

Since the end of last summer, his career has changed significantly, with him being appointed as Pakistan’s Test captain. 

“I’m very happy with how things are going, and I’m just excited for what’s to come as well,” he smiled.

“The way we finished last season and having followed the guys doing the hard yards through the winter, following people playing their cricket all over the world as well, it’s built a lot of confidence and belief ahead of the season.

Shan Masood

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Yorkshire captain Shan Masood.

“We want to carry on from the September we had last season.

“Sometimes the results aren’t reflective of the performances. We all saw in September when we won two out of the four games that we could have won all four.

“We drew the other two. Leicestershire away was rained out, and that was a nip and tuck game which could have gone either way, and Glamorgan away was a game in which we were ahead. If we had had that little x-factor with the ball, we could have finished them off. 

“I know could haves and should haves aren’t always great, but sometimes you have to look at those things to see where the side stands. And I think the side stands in a great position.

“Last year, we had a lot of fitness issues. We didn’t have a full squad to select from a lot of the time. 

“This year, starting the season with everyone available, that’s the best possible place we can be in.”

Shan Masood

Picture by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images. Shan Masood in action for Pakistan in Australia this winter.

Yorkshire’s aim is to elevate themselves from a second-bottom finish in last year’s Division Two to win the title this season. 

“There’s nothing too drastic which needs to be changed, it’s just little things on the day we can execute better to get the results,” said Masood, as he reflected on a 2023 record of three wins, nine draws and two defeats.

The 34-year-old impressed with the bat in Championship cricket last summer, scoring 720 runs in seven matches with two centuries, including a best of 192 in the Glamorgan draw at Cardiff which he referenced earlier.

“Last year, this was a new club on me, and because of international duty I only came in May and went back again and missed the whole of July,” he continued. 

“It was a stop-start campaign and a bit frustrating in that regard.

“Arriving here a few days before the start of this season is a good thing.”

Jonny Tattersall

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Jonny Tattersall will take the wicketkeeping gloves for Yorkshire against Leicestershire in their season opener.

Masood has been playing either international or domestic cricket throughout the winter, but says: “Mentally and physically, I’ve been making sure I stay on top of my game. 

“Now it’s about enjoying the fruits of the hard work I’ve put in.

“Mentally and physically, the onus is on you to stay refreshed because if you’re playing the county season and then international cricket back home, it’s 12 months of playing without any rest.

“But it’s refreshing that I come back here and then when I’m finished here, I go back to Pakistan. The changes in environment keep things fresh and allow you to work towards different targets. 

“It’s almost like playing different video games and jumping on from one to the other.”

While Yorkshire finished second from bottom in last season’s Division Two, Leicestershire finished fourth and maintained a promotion push until the penultimate week of the campaign.

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Yorkshire and the Northern Diamonds are hoping to bring silverware back to Headingley in 2024. Shan Masood chats to his fellow skipper Hollie Armitage.

Alfonso Thomas has taken over as coach ahead of 2024, which will see Lewis Hill continue as captain. 

Ex-Yorkshire all-rounder Ben Mike headlines a handful of new signings, while Australian batting duo Peter Handscomb and Marcus Harris will fill their early-season overseas spaces. 

The Foxes will arrive at Headingley with good memories having beaten Yorkshire here in the opening round of last season, chasing a 389 target on day four.

Masood didn’t play in that game, but he knows all too well what happened.

“There were a lot of good things done (by Yorkshire) in that game,” he said.

“There was a very positive declaration, and we went out to win that game. Sometimes you end up losing, and it can happen. 

Leicestershire

Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com. Leicestershire’s Peter Handscomb and Chris Wright celebrate victory against Yorkshire at Headingley last April.

“We now have a fresh start and another opportunity. Whenever you get another chance to put things right, you have to be grateful. To start off against Leicestershire again, that should be great motivation for the boys to really step up.”

Masood will lead a side with England star Harry Brook in it this weekend, with Joe Root to follow in time for next week’s trip to face Gloucestershire at Bristol. Both will play five games during the first two-month Championship block.

“It’s extremely exciting,” added Masood. “I’m a huge learner of the game, and I never think that I’ve learnt enough. 

“To share the dressing room and to have them around the group, there is so much added value to their presence.

“Having Jonny around last year was good, Mala too. Lythy is another one who is with us more regularly. We have heaps of experience, but having two of the best batsmen in the world – two players who any team would want in any given format – is very exciting.”

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