Coach Tom Smith has hailed the continued development of Yorkshire’s up and coming stars, saying there has been “some real signs of progression from the lads” as he sat down to reflect on the summer at second-team level.
Smith has been in charge of Yorkshire’s twos for the last two seasons.
They have been very different campaigns, though successful nonetheless believes the former England Lions all-rounder.
Last summer, Yorkshire won the County Championship title for the first time since 2003. This year, they had more success against the white ball, reaching T20 Finals Day.
Yorkshire finished fifth in the Championship table, winning six of 11 matches. Leicestershire were champions, winning five of eight matches. The title was decided on average points per game.
Will Luxton was Yorkshire’s leading Championship run-scorer with 681 runs, while Dom Leech led the way with 33 wickets in that format. Both were the second on the respective lists for the entire competition; Luxton for most runs and Leech for most wickets.
In T20 cricket, Smith’s Vikings won eight of 10 group matches to finish top of the North before being beaten in the semi-final by an experienced Derbyshire side who went on to beat Glamorgan in the final.
Will Fraine was Yorkshire’s leading run-scorer with 350 and Ben Cliff the leading wicket-taker with 15.
“I would never want to judge the success of a season in the second team on silverware, because your team can change from week to week,” said Smith.
“Obviously it was nice to win last year, of course it was.
“But this year, I think it’s been a really good season for a number of different players in my opinion.
“Last year, we had a lot of trial players playing, whereas this year we’ve had a lot more staff or Academy lads playing.
“Someone like young Noah Kelly has played six out of the 11 four-day games, and he’s ended up averaging 60 as a 17-year-old (357 runs and has since turned 18).
“He’s had a really good season as he gets used to professional cricket, and his game has come on leaps and bounds through being in that environment, which is fantastic.
“In all forms of cricket, he’s scored 1,740 runs this summer. For a young lad to do that, it’s amazing.
“He’s starting to think differently about his cricket. In the last game of the season at Durham, he was asking, ‘What do I need to do differently to play more second-team cricket and then first-team cricket – what are the areas I need to work on?’
“He wants to really move forward quite quickly and is doing well.
“I look at someone like Will Luxton. He has made really good strides with the bat, Yash Vagadia too (612 runs in the Championship). Harry Duke in white ball cricket has done really well in the first and second team, and Ben Cliff has also gone on to make his first-class debut.
“There has been some real signs of progression from the lads, which is promising.
“We also have a young leg-spinner on the Academy in Josh Hoyle who has done well in the T20 stuff in particular, and others such as Isaac Light and Alex Cree have also come in and done well.
“We’ve also had 16-year-old’s playing at times. Will Bennison is one who is doing really well in the pathway and age-groups, and he’s had a chance.
“The beauty of second-team cricket is that you can create a pathway for those young lads to come in. At the same time, we’ve had a second-team with eleven pros in at times. If we can keep building that, hopefully the club will be very successful over the next 5-10 years.”
While the primary goal for next summer will be promotion in the LV= Insurance County Championship, success in the Vitality Blast and Metro Bank One-Day Cup is very high on the agenda.
“The white ball side of things is something we’ve worked really hard on during the last couple of winters as a senior squad and staff, and that work is now starting to come to fruition,” continued Smith.
“We got through to Finals Day as a first-team last year and as a second-team this.
“That’s something as a club we’re trying to work on.
“We’re delivering messages right the way through, to the younger lads on the Academy as well. We want them to play white ball cricket with freedom.
“That has been shown, at some points to the detriment of our red ball cricket. But the red ball stuff, we have played some good cricket throughout the year.”
The Academy, led by Tom Craddock, matched the second-team T20 semi-final finish, losing to Surrey at their Finals Day.
“The Academy lads, similar to us, didn’t come out on the right end of things at Finals Day,” reflected Smith. “But it’s about being in those pressure moments and games which will allow lads to grow.”
At the start of the summer, when talking for a pre-season preview, Smith spoke about the benefits which playing at Headingley would bring for the seconds. They were about to play a Championship match against Nottinghamshire in late April.
It was the first second-team Championship match played at Headingley since 2018.
Yorkshire beat Notts by 205 runs, a match noted for Jonny Bairstow’s comeback following eight months out with a broken leg and dislocated ankle suffered in August 2022. Bairstow scored 97 and 57.
“We played on the international wicket, and it was a belter of a surface,” said Smith.
“We had quite a strong team out that week, Jonny, Beany, Hilly, Fish. As a second team goes, it wasn’t a bad one. But, at the same time, we had some young pros and Academy lads in who had never played at Headingley.
“It was a brilliant experience for them.
“Jonny was brilliant with the lads.
“He admitted that he was a bit nervous on day one after that much time off. But as soon as he got out there and played, he was back to his normal self.
“He was more than happy to chat to the lads about anything they wanted. He gave as much time as could to those around him. When you see international players doing that, it’s inspiring.”
Smith worked quite closely with Bairstow in the Headingley nets during the latter stages of the winter, with the majority of Yorkshire’s playing squad and staff in Cape Town on pre-season tour in March.
And he hailed the work done by his former Lions team-mate to get back to the top level, which currently sees him playing for England at the World Cup in India.
Smith added: “It was horrific what happened to him, but the Yorkshire and England staff rehabbed him really well and got him back. They should take a lot of credit.
But Jonny should as well. We all know he’s a determined individual who is strong-minded. That shone through when I was around him. The way he’s come back has been brilliant.
“All the Yorkshire lads, you want to see them do well. All the England lads, whatever county, to be fair. They have a chance to go and win another World Cup. To go back-to-back would be an amazing achievement.”