Having won two of the previous three County Championship titles, and been in the mix for the top prize up until the final day of 2016, Yorkshire’s fourth-place finish in this year’s edition will go down as a disappointment – especially given that they went into the final stages of the competition uncertain that they would retain top-flight status.
While it is possible to point to some games they should have won (against Hampshire at Headingley, they lost after a 132-run first-innings lead) they were also lucky to win a tight encounter with Somerset at Taunton and escape from defeat at the Ageas Bowl thanks to a Gary Ballance double century. It could have been so much worse.
Realistically, the White Rose county’s decline has been coming for a while, and the fact that it has taken this long and not resulted in relegation is a testament to the enduring spirit of the club and the talent of their younger players. Both of their Championship-winning campaigns were hampered by the England selectors’ penchant for dipping into the squad wherever possible, and in 2016 a remarkable load-bearing season for Tim Bresnan kept them in contention when their squad looked flimsy compared to their competitors’.
The star of the 2017 cohort was undoubtedly Gary Ballance who, despite missing two matches, vastly outscored the rest of the side. In his 18 innings, he recorded three centuries and four fifties. Adam Lyth and Alex Lees managed two hundreds and four half-centuries between them, and averaged just 25 and 24 respectively. If Yorkshire are going to become a force again, their openers need to shape up or ship out.
On the bowling side of the equation, a stellar final year for Ryan Sidebottom was matched by the exciting emergence of Ben Coad in their seam-bowling ranks. Coad burst onto the scene in the early-season conditions, taking a magnificent 10/102 against Warwickshire at the start of their appalling year. With Matthew Fisher also turning out successfully for the red-ball side in two matches, Sidebottom may not leave as big a hole in the side as previously feared.
Sidebottom’s experience will not be lost to the county, however, as he will focus on a role in the academy bringing future seamers into the first-class ranks.
In the other competitions, Yorkshire showed promise but once again failed to bring home a trophy in a year that saw Nottinghamshire dominate in the coloured clothing. They finished second in the North Group for the Royal London One-Day Cup, before succumbing to Sangakkara in the quarter-final at Headingley.
While they narrowly missed out on a knockout spot in the NatWest T20 Blast, they provided two of the highlights of this year’s competition. Adam Lyth looked set to break Chris Gayle’s record for the highest T20 innings ever, when he annihilated Northamptonshire at Headingley, and Jack Leaning claimed a gravity-defying catch to turn the Roses clash in the home side’s favour at the same ground. Memories are made of this, indeed.
SSCC: 4th, Division One
T20 Blast: 5th, North Group
Championship: Gary Ballance, 955 runs
RLODC: Peter Handscomb, 504 runs
T20: Adam Lyth, 535 runs
Leading wicket-taker: Ch:
Ben Coad, 53 wickets
RLODC Azeem Rafiq, 18 wickets
T20: Azeem Rafiq, 17 wickets
Player of the Season:
Gary Ballance forced his way back into the England side through weight of runs in 2017. To declare pompously that he has had three chances at the Test level is to ignore the magnificence of his batting this season. The Ashes will be a Test of his temperament and technique, but Yorkshire owe him their place in division one.
Ben Coad did not look like a breakthrough player. He looked like a seasoned star, moving the ball both ways at a brisk but not explosive pace, troubling batsmen with persistence and swing. A huge asset to the side this year, let alone being a great prospect for the future.
Could have done better:
Alex Lees and Adam Lyth were the stars of Yorkshire’s 2014 victory, but they had a hopeless 2017 campaign on the whole. The confident predictions that they would both play for England have yielded 6 forgettable Tests for Lyth and one dogged century in a defeat against New Zealand. Despite Lyth’s white-ball brilliance, their futures are uncertain.
Need to work on:
They say this every year, but it needs saying again: you cannot rely on the contributions of star players to carry you through. The whole batting line-up needs to perform. The lack of lustre from Lyth, Lees and Leaning is lamentable. They must learn from this.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore is an interesting signing and, while he did not make the immediate impact in the Championship he would have wanted, he is worth sticking with.
The England absentees were sorely missed and Ballance stepped up well. There was a distinct lack of support from the other batsmen which cost Yorkshire dear.