Ottis Gibson insists confidence is building in his Yorkshire team as they bid to kick-start their season with a home victory over Glamorgan this week.
Gibson’s troops return to Headingley on Thursday (11am) for their fourth round LV= Insurance County Championship fixture, one which will be billed by many as a pre-Ashes battle between Jonny Bairstow and Marnus Labuschagne.
Bairstow is fit to return from the broken leg and dislocated ankle he suffered last August and is set for his first Championship appearance since July 2018.
He played in the Bob Willis Trophy in 2020 and in the Vitality Blast in 2021.
World number one ranked Test batter Labuschagne, meanwhile, has returned to Wales as Glamorgan’s overseas player and will make his third appearance of the summer so far.
But the bigger picture is that Bairstow will be hoping to help Yorkshire end a run of a defeat and two draws to start 2023 and a winless run in Championship cricket which stretches back to the opening game of last summer.
Coach Gibson, however, is in a chipper mood after seeing his players roar back into their most recent Division Two fixture against Sussex at Hove late last month before final day rain prevented them from finishing the job off.
“Hopefully we can take all the positive things we did at Sussex into this game, and hopefully we can get some better weather,” he said.
“It was the closest we had come to winning since Bristol last year, so fantastic.
“It felt a bit like a loss because we invested so much in the game and weren’t able to get the opportunity to score the 60 runs we needed.
“But, at the same time, the way we played, the language we’re using towards each other, the way we analysed the game, the way we’re executing our plans, the way the bowlers are thinking about trying to take wickets rather than keeping it dry, it’s encouraging.
“With the talent we have and the skill we have, winning isn’t far away.”
There has been a lot of talk about whether Bairstow will keep wicket or not, both for Yorkshire and England in the Ashes.
There has also been talk – but not as much – about where he will bat. Could he even open the batting for England when Australia visit?
Gibson said: “In terms of England and where he bats, I have no view. That’s above my pay grade. Where he bats for us, he will come in and slot in most likely at five.
“Hopefully he will get some runs and help us get the win that we want.
“We’re not only going to try and get Jonny fit, we’re also going to try and get him confident for the battles that lie ahead for him in international cricket.”
Glamorgan have drawn all three of their matches so far this season, most recently a high-scoring affair at Leicestershire last week when both sides topped 400 in their first innings.
Labuschagne has also been joined at Glamorgan by fellow Queenslander Michael Neser, the new ball seamer who has narrowly missed out on Ashes selection.
Captained by wicketkeeper-batter Chris Cooke, they will also include former Yorkshire loanee Sam Northeast.
One man among many Yorkshire bowlers who will be looking forward to bowling at Labuschagne is off-spinner Dom Bess.
He impressed against Sussex last time out, particularly in the second innings when he took 3-36 from 16.1 overs to help bowl the hosts out for 137 on day three to help set up a victory target of 201.
“I see he’s been rolling out some offies, so I might have to ask him about that and see what he thinks,” smiled Bess.
“It will be a good challenge to bowl at him. He’s a fantastic player, and I’m really looking forward to it.”
On the day three bowling performance at Hove, Bess said: “That was the blueprint for what we can do to teams in this division, and whatever the process was the lads need to remember it.
“That’s what Yorkshire fans should expect from us.
“I know they’re pretty hard on us because of the expectation of the club. But that showed what we’re about, and hopefully we can keep on repeating that kind of thing.”
Bess was excellent in that match, backing up the 5-158 he claimed in the second innings of the opening round defeat against Leicestershire at Headingley.
He shortened his run-up midway through the second innings.
“I came off three metres shorter, and it just felt really good,” he said.
Bess continues to work hard on improving his bowling, something which started whilst playing grade cricket in Sydney over the winter.
“Working hard on my game is something I wanted to do this winter, and I feel like I’m slowly building into the summer now. I’m seeing the rewards of what I’ve done.
“It’s (Sussex performance) re-enforced things for me.
“Gibbo’s patted me on the back and said, ‘Your hard work’s paying off’.
“It’s not about chilling out and resting on my laurels, it’s about going on from that, working harder and trying to be consistent.”
Gibson added: “We’ve done a lot of work and lot of talking.
“Last year, Dom was in a different place to where he is this year.
“He’s been away and done a lot of work on his action and come back and continued that work.
“We’ve been collaborating on a few things around his action, and it’s good to see that hard work pay off – not just in terms of wickets but one of the things we’ve tried to do is drag his economy rate down.
“His economy rate has been a little bit high, even in the fourth innings of games. So to see the way he bowled in the second innings at Sussex, he was keeping things tight and building pressure, was fantastic.”