Andrew Gale has urged his players to attack Thursday’s Royal London One-Day Cup eliminator clash with Essex at Chelmsford and play with plenty of freedom.
The Vikings face the Eagles under lights (2pm) and in front of the Sky Sports cameras for the right to face Hampshire in Monday’s semi-final at the Ageas Bowl.
But they will have to do it without their handful of international stars.
Jonny Bairstow, who hasn’t played so far in the competition, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root and David Willey are all with England’s one-day squad. Che Pujara has also returned to India for their forthcoming one-off Test Match against Afghanistan.
“It’s going to be very difficult because we’re missing the core of our team,” said Gale.
“Four or five will be missing down there, so my message to the lads is ‘We’re massive underdogs going into that’.
“We’ve had a pretty settled side throughout the tournament, so it isn’t ideal. But it’s an opportunity to go there with a lot of freedom and play some positive cricket.”
Yorkshire have reached the knockout stages of the Royal London for five years running, but they have not reached the final in that period.
They beat Essex at Chelmsford in a quarter-final in 2015 before losing a home semi to Michael Klinger inspired Gloucestershire.
Whoever they field, Gale and company will take plenty of confidence into the tie.
They have won their last four North Group matches, three of them in nail-biting fashion, and beat Essex in the Championship at Chelmsford last month.
“You could say we’re in the entertainment business, and the last four games have certainly been that,” continued Gale, whose side secured qualification by beating Northamptonshire at Emerald Headingley on Thursday, recovering from 134-5 in pursuit of 242.
“But you get so much confidence out of the close games.
“On Thursday, I thought we showed a lot of character If we’re being honest, they shouldn’t have got anywhere near the score they did.
“It was still very chaseable, and we made hard work of it. But, fair play to Dave Willey first and then Jonny Tattersall and Gary Ballance, their partnership was fantastic (87 for the sixth wicket).”
Returning to the Essex clash, the hosts go into the fixture having finished second in the South, and they will have to decide whether to include England Test opener Alastair Cook for the first time in this season’s competition.
“They’ve been strong for a number of years,” said Gale.
“It’s a hard place to go, Chelmsford, but they’re certainly not unbeatable, which we proved in Championship cricket a few weeks ago. All I’d say is ‘Why not?’.”
One man available at Chelmsford is club captain Gary Ballance, who will not skipper the side following his recent personal problems. Steve Patterson will continue to deputise.
After missing the start of the tournament, Ballance has played in each of the last four wins, posting scores of 27, 38 and 66, the latter in superb fashion against Northants.
“It wasn’t ideal losing him, but he looks refreshed and raring to go,” added Gale. “He showed all his experience against Northants. He’s a very calm and cool customer under pressure.
“He’s an asset to us, no doubt about that.”
Meanwhile, Yorkshire’s potential semi-final at Hampshire on Monday has been switched from a 2pm to 11am start to avoid a clash with England’s World Cup football match against Tunisia.
Yorkshire’s Royal London One-Day Cup statistics
- Yorkshire last played Essex in a List A match three years ago and that was also an RLC play-off match. The result went Yorkshire’s way.
- Yorkshire have won only two of the last nine meetings between these two counties in List A matches.
- Yorkshire have now reached the play-off stage in all five seasons of the RLC, winning two and losing two but never going beyond the semi-finals.
- Only once has either county passed 300 in List A matches between these two opponents, Yorkshire doing so with 307 for three at Chelmsford in 1995.
- Yorkshire’s lowest total of 54 in all List A cricket was made against Essex – at Headingley in 2003.
- There have been three occasions when Essex bowlers have taken at least five wickets in a List A innings against Yorkshire, the best being six for 18 by Ray East at Hull in 1969. Yorkshire’s best against Essex is four for 20 by Graham Stevenson at Barnsley in 1977.
Potential batting milestones in Essex v Yorkshire on 14th Jun 2018
T Westley needs 22 runs to reach 2500 runs in List A matches
JM Bairstow needs 25 runs to reach 3500 runs in List A matches
JS Foster needs 28 runs to reach 1500 runs in List A matches at Chelmsford
Ashar Zaidi needs 45 runs to reach 3000 runs in List A matches
JA Leaning needs 47 runs to reach 1000 runs in List A matches
GS Ballance needs 50 runs to reach 4000 runs in List A matches
T Westley needs 57 runs to reach 1000 runs in List A matches at Chelmsford
AJ Hodd needs 66 runs to reach 1000 runs in List A matches
AJA Wheater needs 98 runs to reach 500 runs in List A matches at Chelmsford
SR Harmer needs 100 runs to reach 1000 runs in List A matches
DW Lawrence needs 115 runs to reach 500 runs in List A matches
JS Foster needs 143 runs to reach 3500 runs in List A matches
Potential bowling milestones in Essex v Yorkshire on 14th Jun 2018
MR Quinn needs 6 wickets to reach 50 wickets in List A matches
RN ten Doeschate needs 6 wickets to reach 50 wickets in List A matches at Chelmsford
Azeem Rafiq needs 7 wickets to reach 50 wickets in List A matches
LE Plunkett needs 8 wickets to reach 250 wickets in List A matches
RS Bopara needs 10 wickets to reach 250 wickets in List A matches
How they reached the knockout stages…
The Royal London one-day Cup has reached crunch time, and what a competition it has been so far.
Both groups finished in thrilling fashion earlier this week, with qualification for the knockouts going right down to the wire.
Look at Yorkshire, for example, they went into last night’s final North Group clash with Northamptonshire knowing they could finish anywhere in the top three qualifying places or be knocked out altogether.
In the end, Hampshire and Worcestershire qualified directly through to home semi-finals the week after next, while Yorkshire, Essex, Nottinghamshire and Kent will all play eliminator matches for the right to face them.
But how have all sides secured knockout cricket?
Craig White’s men finished top of the South with five wins from their eight matches.
They had already qualified for the knockouts prior to their final group game against Somerset at the Ageas Bowl on Wednesday, a thriller which they lost defending a target of 357.
But results elsewhere ensured they secured top spot.
It has been a collective effort from Yorkshire’s potential semi-final opponents, with only captain James Vince (333) topping 300 runs, while leg-spinner Mason Crane leads the way with 14 wickets.
Hampshire are expected to have South Africa fast bowler Dale Steyn available for the semi-final, as well as the pink ball Championship match against Yorkshire at the Ageas Bowl between June 20-23.
The North Group winners and other semi-finalists await the winners of Nottinghamshire v Kent.
The Rapids won six of eight group games to finish top, including a one-wicket win over Warwickshire at Edgbaston last night.
They needed five to win with a wicket left and qualified as a result. But, had they lost, they would have been out and the Bears would have qualified.
They beat Yorkshire at Headingley by racking up 350 and have been boosted by the form of Australian batsman Callum Ferguson, who has scored 364 runs from just four matches, including scores of 192 and 159 not out, having replaced Travis Head.
They chased down an English List A record 377 to beat Leicestershire.
Yorkshire’s eliminator opponents at Chelmsford next Thursday finished second in the South, winning five and losing three.
Anthony McGrath’s men topped 300 three times, including in their final group game against Kent on Wednesday (337).
Opening batsman Varun Chopra is the third leading run-scorer in the competition with 491, including one hundred and three fifties.
Evergreen all-rounder Ravi Bopara has also been in sparkling form, scoring 393 runs and taking eleven wickets with his medium pacers – the latter being the joint best in the squad alongside New Zealand fast bowler Neil Wagner.
Essex face an interesting decision next Thursday.
Do they draft in Alastair Cook, who has been made available by the England management, for his first match of the campaign?
The Vikings qualified for next week’s semi-final eliminator match, an effective quarter-final, by winning their last four North Group matches, including Northants at Emerald Headingley last night.
Yorkshire have all the momentum, but they will have to cope with a host of international call ups hitting their team for Essex.
They are expected to be without Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Joe Root and Che Pujara due to England’s ODI series with Australia and India’s Test against Afghanistan.
That could change if England opt to release any players not selected to play in certain ODIs, but we will not know that until much closer to Thursday.
But, in Tom Kohler-Cadmore, they have one of the form batsmen in the competition with 451 runs, while opening partner Adam Lyth is not far behind with 401, including two centuries.
The reigning champions qualified by the skin of their teeth, and in second place in the North.
They started the final round of North Group fixtures outside the top three and faced a must win game with fellow hopefuls Derbyshire.
But they won that, chasing 111, by eight wickets with 38.1 overs to spare to boost their net run-rate enough to secure second place and a home eliminator match against Kent.
They posted a mammoth 409-7 in beating Leicestershire at Grace Road, while their clash with Yorkshire was washed out.
Captain Steven Mullaney and England seamer Jake Ball have been their standouts with 316 runs and 14 wickets respectively.
Kent’s record of five wins and three defeats was identical to second-placed Essex in the South, but they finished third via an inferior net run-rate.
Matthew Walker’s side suffered a final day defeat at Essex on Wednesday, but they had already qualified for the knockouts.
Former England one-day opener Joe Denly is in superb form at present and has scored 428 runs with two centuries.
Sam Billings is their captain, but his availability for the Trent Bridge clash depends on England commitments.
All-rounder Alex Blake has hit 17 sixes, the joint most in the competition alongside Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone.
New Zealand fast bowler Matt Henry has been an inspired overseas signing. Blazing a trail in the Championship, he has also taken 14 wickets in the RL50 alongside team-mate Darren Stevens.
Arguably the dark horses for the title.
Royal London One-Day Cup statistics
- Specsavers County Championship, Division 1 – 2017: 1st
- Royal London One-Day Cup, South Group 2017: Semi-finalists
South Group – 1st
- Vitality T20 Blast, South Group – 2017: DNQ
South Group – 8th
Captain: Ryan ten Doeschate (all formats)
Head coach: Anthony McGrath
Overseas Players: Peter Siddle (Australia; first five Championship matches); Neil Wagner (New Zealand; from May to end of July with option to extend; all formats); Adam Zampa (Australia; T20 only)
Other ins: Matt Coles (Kent), Feroze Khushi (Academy)
Outs: Kishen Velani (released)
Essex’s Royal London One-Day Cup statistics