Winning formula: Yorkshire top order urged to find collective power

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MARTYN MOXON has outlined the main area that Yorkshire must improve to reclaim the County Championship.

The club’s director of cricket said that they need greater returns from their top-order batsmen.

Last year, just openers Adam Lyth and Alex Lees passed 1,000 runs as Yorkshire missed out on a hat-trick of titles.

The next-highest scorer was Gary Ballance, who made 780 runs at an average of 33.

Pace bowler Tim Bresnan was the next-highest scorer, topping the averages of Yorkshire’s regular Championship players with 722 runs at 48, mostly fashioned from the lower middle-order.

Liam Plunkett – another pace bowling lower middle-order batsman – was second on the list with an average of 44.

Over the last two seasons, we’ve had some very good individual performances at times, but, as a group, we’ve not really been successful together.

Yorkshire director of cricket, Martyn Moxon.

Otherwise, Andrew Gale and Jack Leaning had challenging seasons, with Yorkshire frequently missing Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root.

Frustratingly for Moxon, the regular core laboured for consistency.

“The big area we’ve been working on this winter, and which we feel we need to address, is our top-order batting,” he said.

“We need to get it firing as a unit.

“Over the last two seasons, we’ve had some very good individual performances at times, but, as a group, we’ve not really been successful together.

“In fact, last year, in half our innings in the County Championship, we were 50 or less for three, and it’s very difficult to win from that position.”

With Ballance boosted by the award of the captaincy and no doubt fired-up to prove a point to the England selectors, Yorkshire will expect 1,000 runs from him this summer.

They will also be eyeing further four-figure returns from Lyth and Lees.

Yorkshire have also signed one of international cricket’s most in-form batsmen in the form of Australian Peter Handscomb.

“There is reason for optimism with our batting going into the season and, as I say, we’ve been working particularly hard on that area,” added Moxon.

“Hopefully, we can get back to something like where we were in 2014 when we did get big scores and bowled opponents out twice.

“That’s kind of the aim going into 2017 – trying to get back to that formula, if you like, that we had of winning County Championship matches.

“We were certainly competitive last year, but it was disappointing to come away without any silverware.”

Moxon admits that Yorkshire did not perform well enough to make it three-in-a-row.

They had to settle for third place when Middlesex won the title showdown at Lord’s in September.

“If we’re being honest, we didn’t play well enough over the course of the season to win it last time,” he said.

“We said before that we know how well you have to play to win the County Championship, but we probably didn’t reach the levels required.

“Middlesex, to be fair to them, were more consistent and, ultimately, they got their reward.

“It was an incredible finale at Lord’s – the most pressurised game I’ve ever been involved in as far as domestic cricket is concerned – and it showed the competitiveness that the First Division has.”

For Yorkshire to remain competitive going forward, Moxon is seeking greater competition for places.

In particular, he wants the club’s young players to put up their hands.

Yorkshire’s commitment to youth was emphasised again yesterday when Karl Carver, Matthew Waite, Josh Shaw and Jared Warner signed contract extensions until December, 2018, with Jonny Tattersall penning a short-term deal until the end of June.

Moxon hopes that young players such as these will continue to flourish.

“What I personally, along with the other coaches, really want to see this summer is our younger players really challenging the senior players for first XI places,” he said.

“Last year, we had some promising performances from young players individually, but, to be honest, there hasn’t really been the consistency we’re looking for as coaches and that we need to ensure that we’re successful in the short-term and obviously in the long-term.

“So there’s been a challenge set out to the younger players in the squad to really get that consistency of performance and to challenge the senior players for their places going forward.

“We hope very much that will be the case.”