Can they do it? Can anyone stop them? These are the questions on everyone’s lips as Yorkshire open their 2016 account on Sunday. If Yorkshire are able to secure a third consecutive County Championship title, it will be the first time any team has won the title with that level of frequency since the 1960s Yorkshire team managed it.
Senior bowler Ryan Sidebottom told the YCCC website ahead of the opening fixture:
“The lads will be fired up, and what’s driving us is the possible three in a row.
We are not going get too ahead of ourselves. We have talked about the importance of the season and the chance to make your own legacy as this group of players, and the desire and commitment is really there to see.”
With such a strong squad, even the loss of Tim Bresnan through injury and Joe Root through international duty, Yorkshire are boasting an extremely strong squad for the opening section of the 2016 season. Their batsmen/bowler balance appears on paper to be the ideal formula for a further success and the rest of the County Championship teams are acutely aware of this.
Hampshire, who meet Yorkshire in their second match of the season, will be looking to continue positively and this time secure a win. Their opening match of the season was rain-affected and arguably started to swing in the direction of Warwickshire but some grit, determination and good bowling meant there was some serious competition going on at the Ageas Bowl.
Overcast conditions at Headingley and the fact that, as Giles White Hampshire director of cricket told his team’s website, ‘April is not an easy time to bat’, could make this make the battle of the bowlers.
There are almost too many men to watch in the Yorkshire line-up, the players are either looking to cement their position in the international side or regain them. Eyes may be most heavily resting on Adam Lyth. An impressive opening bat who scored runs for breakfast, lunch and dinner during the 2014 and 2015 seasons and saw him called up as Alastair Cook’s opening partner, was only in the England ranks briefly as he struggled to make runs. If he’s able to get this season off to the storming start, there might be a recall on the cards.
Hampshire’s James Vince has been on many a punter’s lips this week as there is a spot open in the England Test line-up following the premature retirement of Nottinghamshire batsman James Taylor. Vince’s form with the bat at number three will be crucial if the England selectors have got their eyes on him as well – he made just 25 and 21in his two innings in their rain-interrupted opening match of the season.
Vince has the additional responsibility of captaincy, having been handed the reins following Jimmy Adams’ decision to stand-down as captain after the 2015 season.
Most of the England contingent are available for Yorkshire’s opening match of the 2016 season and are included in the squad: Plunkett, Rashid and Willey all feature. The exception is Joe Root who has been rested following a lengthy – and fruitful – sting with the international side.
Tim Bresnan continues his rehabilitation following a torn calf muscle sustained in the pre-season tour of the UAE.
The big hit for Hampshire this week is the news that Reece Topley will be out for eight weeks due to a fractured right hand. In addition to that, Jimmy Adams continues his rehabilitation, but aims to make his return in just two weeks on the 1st May.
The omission of Topley brings 19 year old Brad Wheal into the 13 man squad but his position in the final XI will be confirmed on Sunday with leg-spinner Mason Crane and seamer Chris Wood also a possibility.
Yorkshire squad: Andrew Gale (C), Jonny Bairstow (wk), Gary Ballance, Jack Brooks, Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steve Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Will Rhodes, Ryan Sidebottom, David Willey.
Hampshire squad: James Vince (c), Tom Alsop, Michael Carberry, Mason Crane, Liam Dawson, Fidel Edwards, Sean Ervine, Ryan McLaren, Will Smith, James Tomlinson, Brad Wheal, Adam Wheater (wk), Chris Wood
Weather and conditions
Despite the weather in Yorkshire being somewhat wet for the week preceding this game, the forecast is actually consistently calm for the four day duration. At 10 degrees and overcast, the ball could swing and there’s unlikely to be any salvation found in rain delays.
Date: 17th-20th April 2014
Ground: Headingley Stadium, Leeds
Umpires: Steve Gale & Nigel Llong
Odds (SkyBet): Yorkshire 1/3, Hampshire 5/2