Yorkshire are confident they can bounce back from last month’s Specsavers County Championship defeat to Surrey at Scarborough when they tackle Lancashire, starting on Sunday.
After the starter comes the main course.
The Roses rivals meet at Emirates Old Trafford in the Vitality Blast on Friday and do so again at the same venue, with both sides able to field all their Test Match stars.
Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow will play alongside England team-mates Jimmy Anderson and Jos Buttler for Lancashire as they warm up for the forthcoming Test series against India.
Both Yorkshire and Lancashire are struggling at the wrong end of Division One.
Lancashire are sixth in Division One and Yorkshire seventh.
Lancashire are three points better off with one win from eight, but they have played a game more than Yorkshire, who have won two from seven.
Last time out, the White Rose were beaten by seven wickets against leaders Surrey, while Lancashire drew a home game with Hampshire.
“We had a tough result at Scarborough, but the good form we’ve shown in T20 has given us confidence,” said former captain Gary Ballance.
“Hopefully we can carry that forwards into the four-day format.
“We’ve come up against some good sides so far. Surrey just played better than us over the course of the four days. We weren’t ruthless enough.
“We had our chances, but we didn’t take them.
“It has been tough for the first half of the year in the four-day stuff. But, if we can put more consistent performances in, the results will come.”
One significant positive for Yorkshire is that their destiny in Division One is in their own hands.
Given they are 61 points behind Surrey at the top at the halfway stage of the season, they are realistically looking at preserving their Division One future.
But they play bottom side Worcestershire twice, the same with Lancashire and Hampshire once more – all teams who are around them in the table.
Ballance has played in five Roses Championship matches, including his first at Liverpool in 2011, a feisty affair which the hosts won.
But the in-form left-hander insists tensions have never spilt over between the two sides and that the competitive rivalry is a healthy one.
“Roses games are different, in all forms of the game. There’s a bit more on them, and it’s always good to play in them,” he said.
“I don’t get involved in any of the verbals or things like that.
“If guys want to have a few words, that’s fine. It’s all good fun.
“They are well fought, but I haven’t been involved in any that have gone over the top, which you don’t want.”
Since the start of June, in all forms, Ballance has been in impressive form, posting scores of 38, 66, 91, 25, 109 (Championship draw with Hampshire), 21, 54, 15, 0, 79, 17 and 40.
“I feel very good, but I can’t take it for granted,” he added. “I’ve got to keep working and cash in with some big scores, which will hopefully bring some wins for the boys.”
Warwickshire leg-spinner Josh Poysden debuts after signing a one-match loan deal.
Prospects for 2018
With a fair wind, this could be Lancashire’s year – maybe even their second Championship win in eight years.
The Red Rose’s batting looks incredibly strong. Hameed, Davies, Jennings and Livingstone have all represented the Lions recently, with the latter currently on England’s Test tour of New Zealand. Then you add in former Test duo Shiv Chanderpaul and Dane Vilas.
There are question marks about their bowling.
How will they cope without Jarvis and McLaren? Will Mennie settle? Will Onions and Mahmood, two quicks at either ends of their careers, stay fit?
In the spin department, it would seem likely that Stephen Parry and leg-spinner Matt Parkinson, another Lion who ran Mahmood close for One to Watch in this preview, will share the bulk of the duties.
That aforementioned fair wind includes international availability.
If they get Jimmy Anderson, especially, and Jos Buttler for a few games surrounding England commitments, they could be hard to stop.
Last season could have been very different had they beaten Essex at Chelmsford during the opening week. It was a game they had much the better of until a final day Dan Lawrence hundred ensured a draw.
From there, Lancashire were always a win behind where they needed to be.
Buttler’s presence would definitely be better served with the white ball.
Lightning have barely threatened in List A cricket since reaching the Cheltenham and Gloucester final in 2006, and since lifting the T20 Blast in 2015 they haven’t got out of the group stages.
The Lightning are capable of so much more. Now they need to show it.
- Specsavers County Championship in 2017: Fourth place
- Royal London one-day Cup in 2017: Beaten quarter-finalists
- Vitality Blast in 2017: Group stage knockout
Captain: Gary Ballance
Coach and Director of Cricket: Andrew Gale and Martyn Moxon
Overseas players: Yorkshire have had their availability issues with imports in the last few years, with goalposts changing on numerous deals. But they are hoping three players will see them through 2018.
They have signed batsmen Cheteshwar Pujara and Kane Williamson to see them through Championship, one-day action and the majority of the T20 Blast.
India’s Pujara will start the season and play four-day and one-day cricket before being replaced by New Zealand skipper Williamson in July. He will play four Championship and eleven Blast group games.
Other Ins and Outs: Very little to report.
Towards the end of last season when things weren’t going the way Gale and Moxon wanted, there was talk of incomings and outgoings at Emerald Headingley. But that hasn’t happened.
The pair have decided to show faith in the players they have, challenging them to prove last season’s flirt with relegation in the Championship was a one off for the champions of 2014 and 2015.
However, all-rounder Will Rhodes, far from a first-team regular in any competition, has left to join the Warwickshire revolution.
Yorkshire’s Specsavers County Championship statistics
Prospects for 2018
Going back to 2014 and 2015 for a second, even 2016 when they ran Middlesex oh so close, Yorkshire were red hot pre-season title favourites. They were the standout team.
The last couple of years, however, Division One has become much more competitive, and they were left behind last term.
Following the departure of coach Jason Gillespie at the end of 2016, Moxon accepted the squad was set for a period of transition, with a number of seamers top side of 30.
That included retired Sidebottom alongside the likes of Brooks, Patterson, and Plunkett.
Unfortunately, that period of transition hit the county much quicker than expected, meaning an incredibly difficult first season in charge for former captain Gale.
Let’s be honest, a fourth-placed finish in the Championship flattered the White Rose. A two-point gap to relegated Middlesex in seventh was perhaps a fairer reflection.
Yorkshire should be better for that fright, and they could easily be title challengers. Again, a lot depends on England call-ups.
But, going back to the original point, they are not favourites.
White ball cricket was a head scratcher for the Vikings last season. Beaten by Surrey at home in the 50-over quarter-final, they then played some breathtaking T20 and, amazingly, failed to get out of the group.
They topped 200 four times in an innings, including a record-breaking 260 against Northants at home.
The county have to be amongst the favourites for both limited overs competitions.