Yorkshire’s Academy began their busy summer programme of fixtures at the weekend, with new Academy Coach James Lowe urging his players to make winning games a primary focus.

Lowe is now in charge of the Academy set-up at Headingley having moved south from Durham recently, with help from other coaches including former England and Yorkshire batter Jim Love and ex-Northamptonshire seamer Mohammad Azharullah.

The Academy have played in a rain affected game at Bradford Park Avenue, where only 41.2 overs were possible.

It sets up a summer programme which no longer includes Saturday cricket in the Yorkshire Premier League North competition.

Instead, players will feature for their home clubs on a Saturday and play cricket across all formats for the Academy around that.

During the second half of the summer, a Yorkshire Under 18s side will take part in a nationwide county competition.

“There’s a group stage working through to becoming national champions, which is what we will definitely be aiming to be,” said Lowe, the 39-year-old former Durham batter.

“A lot of the lads will be playing in that competition, and we will be going all out to try and win it. It’s an important part of their development.

“It’s something I will be speaking to the lads about. There will be a lot of games which will be termed friendlies, but they’re not.

“Yorkshire v Lancashire, for example, that’s not a friendly. They have to go out and play like their lives depend on it.”

After 19 years of service to Durham, where he was most recently the lead performance coach for Academy and Pathway cricket, Lowe has stepped up to be an Academy director for the first time.

“I’m absolutely delighted to be here,” he said. “I really enjoyed my time up at Durham, where I was assistant to John Windows (Academy director at the Riverside).

“I gained a lot of experience there, and it was great. But when the opportunity came up here, I was really excited by it and keen to get involved. It’s a big club with a lot of talent.”

When Lowe started his role last month, he was able to hit the ground running.

“I’ve seen a lot of the lads over the last four or five years through my previous role, coming through the county age-groups,” he explained. “A few of the lads live quite close to me, actually, so I’ve seen them develop from young players.

“All the northern counties work quite closely together as well, and the relationships are pretty good.

“Only about three weeks ago, the lads went up to Durham and did a competitive training session, and I think that’s good for them.

“They get into different environments, meet different people and they can judge themselves against other talent from Durham or Lancashire. I think it’s a useful experience.

“Also, seeing them in the practice sessions recently, I’ve been really impressed with their efforts and enthusiasm they’ve shown. You can tell they are as keen as anything to get outside and into games.”

The Under 18s nationwide Championship was the reason why Yorkshire, one of the last counties to run a Saturday team, opted to pull out of the YPL North.

“The midweek programme is so busy now,” reasoned Lowe, who has a group of 12 players under his wing in the Academy and Emerging Players Programme.

That does not mean Yorkshire don’t see the value in league cricket on a Saturday. They absolutely do.

Players will return to the clubs, where there is more pressure on them to perform, and they will be playing with and against some very good senior cricketers, including overseas professionals, which will further aid their development.

Clearly, alongside aiming to win games, players will be aiming to progress up the ladder through personal performances.

“The lads have trained unbelievably – really, really well,” added Lowe. “But we are at the business end now where the games start.

“And I’ll be speaking to the lads about performances.

“I want to be ringing Tom (Smith, second-team coach) and saying, ‘This lad’s taking wickets or this one’s got another hundred’. They need to be putting themselves in the shop window.

“That’s what these lads, particularly the older ones, should be aiming for – to be getting into that second team.

“Every time they step onto the field, it’s a chance for them to impress. Individual performances is part of that, but so is winning matches.

“While there is a more long-term view from myself, the other coaches and the club, I will certainly be encouraging the lads to go and get stuck into every game to try and win it.”

Academy intake 2022: Ben Cliff, Yash Vagadia, Matthew Weston, Harry Allinson, Noah Priestley, Noah Kelly, Clark Doughney.

Emerging Players Programme: George Booth, Harry Finch, Josh Hoyle, Charlie McMurren, Louie Owens.

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