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Last of the 2011 Whine – Season Review

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(c) Dave Morton

So which year was the blip? 2010, when a team perennially at the relegation end of the table overachieved to mount an unlikely tilt at the tile? Or 2011, when an emerging side packed with exciting young talent underachieved and was taught the harsh lesson of relegation?

The truth of course is more nuanced than a simple binary choice.

It’s hidden somewhere within the story of a truly miserable season for Yorkshire supporters. A season that saw the club slip back into the quicksand of division two, whilst traditional rivals Lancashire won their first outright championship title since Americans started dressing their cats as Superman for Halloween.

Yorkshire’s struggles were caused by shortcomings in all three disciplines of the game; but a batting line-up that was brittle, and on occasion overly cautious, proved to be the initial concern.

(c) Dave Morton

Those problems were there from the very first championship innings of the year, with spectators at New Road watching us slump to 155/7 before we were rescued by the unlikely pairing of Gerard Brophy and Ryan Sidebottom. There were no such lower order heroics the following week at Headingley as a solid start of 100/2 against Durham fell away to 149 all out; and there were no heroics at all in our third championship game, when after being set a modest 145 to win, we were dismissed for an inept, dispiriting, 86.

That collapse was against Nottinghamshire, supposedly one of our rivals for the title. It came after we’d taken a 193 run first innings lead; it came after it briefly looked like we might force home an innings victory. Instead, such a dramatic reversal of fortune was not only a humiliating, chastening experience; it influenced much of the caution that was to permeate our play during the remainder of the summer.

Certainly our batting rarely pushed the clap-o-meter needle over from ‘polite’ to ‘drunken US chat show audience’. Having the two Joe’s, Sayers and Root, at the top of the order didn’t help us get off to a flier, but even so, of the seven times we scored more than 350 in our first innings, we only managed to get there within the bonus point qualification period of 110 overs on three occasions. Hardly the attacking cricket promised by Andy Gale when he’d taken over the captaincy.

There were mitigating circumstances of course. Batsman struggling with form and fitness are unlikely to play like Varinder Sehwag with a bus to catch. Teams liable to collapse are unlikely to sound the cavalry charge – although whether Yorkshire’s ISO 31000 certification would have been invalidated by them pacing their innings towards a fourth batting bonus point is debatable.

What’s not debatable is that the departure of Jacques Rudolph at the end of 2010 left a huge gap in Yorkshire’s ability to post large scores. The young batsmen earmarked during the winter to replace him, Joe Root and Gary Ballance, had fine seasons, but their consistent run scoring is yet to regularly include the long innings that significantly influence the outcome of a game. That task you’d expect to be fulfilled by the capped batsmen; yet of them, Gale missed the championship run-in after breaking his arm, Bairstow’s red-hot form cooled in the second half of the season, Sayers played like a man slowly recovering from a career threatening illness, Lyth had a summer spent offering catching practice outside off stump and Mags was being picked when out of form and barely off the physio’s table.

The overall impression was not only of a side that wasn’t scoring the runs it should, but perhaps more tellingly, one that had reverted to the batting collapses and careless sessions of play that had bedevilled them in 2008 & 2009.

Yet if anything, the bowling fared even worse.

(c) Dave Morton

Sidebottom came in, did a brave job of leading the line, and captured by far his best haul of first-class wickets; although even he looked ineffective during some of our more toothless displays, and was clearly down on pace from his time with England. Pyrah was a vastly improved four day bowler during early season, but the extra zip he’d found gradually ebbed away after a nasty knee injury kept him out of action for almost a month.

The rest of the attack was a huge disappointment. None more so than Adil Rashid, who started the season with an opening-day six-wicket haul in front of Geoff Miller and ended it so far off the national selectors radar you’d need the Hubble telescope to locate him.

Steve Patterson’s nagging accuracy from the previous year took overly long to be rediscovered, and when it was, a side strain left him out of action for almost two months. Ajmal Shahzad’s enthusiasm led to occasional incisive spells, but all too often a scattergun inaccuracy. Whilst the fringe bowlers found themselves dropped in and out of an ineffective bowling unit backed by a slip cordon that caused more balls to be grassed than a naturist picnic.

Our problems in the field reached their nadir during a tortuous two week away tour of Liverpool, Taunton and Hove that saw 1,678 runs conceded with just 28 wickets taken. It was a road trip which included the twin embarrassments of Lancashire chasing down 121 in an hour to win the Roses match off the final over of the game, and an undefeated opening stand of 228 in just 40 overs that allowed Somerset to complete a contemptuous run-chase against us for the third year running.

Oh, and later in the summer Michael Carberry and Neil McKenzie put on an eight hour, 523 run stand for Hampshire’s third wicket in our match at the Rose Bowl.

As I said, a truly miserable season for Yorkshire supporters.

And not a particularly enjoyable one for our players either.

So what went wrong after the improvement of 2010?

(c) Dave Morton

You could start by looking at the previous winter’s preparations. There’s already been an acknowledgment that our training programme left some of the squad feeling jaded when the season began, and there needs to be an honest assessment as to whether that was also a factor in the plethora of injuries suffered throughout the summer.

Nor did it help that four key members of the squad were involved with the Lions tour which coincided with our crucial pre-season trip to Barbados, or that Anthony McGrath was injured during the same period. The fact we had half a dozen players putting their names forward for the IPL auction in January was probably more of a worry than a disruption, but even so, should anyone in the squad feel like making themselves available for IPL5 I’d suggest they avoid asking YCCC chairman Colin Graves for a letter of recommendation.

But the off-season factor that had the biggest impact on our performances was the decision not to replace Rudolph with the signing of another senior batsman, most likely an overseas pro. The results are there for all to see; although the squad’s inability to cover for Jacques’ loss stemmed mainly from a failure of our capped batsmen to maintain their form, as the judgement made that Joe Root and Gary Ballance were ready for first-team action has proved to be sound.

There’ve been plenty of voices criticising that lack of an overseas player in the Yorkshire ranks, but I’ve yet to hear anyone volunteering the money to pay for him. Because let’s be clear, Rudolph’s wages were spent on signing Ryan Sidebottom, without whom our bowling attack would have been as limp as a librarian’s handshake. The only other option would have been to increase spending on the squad at a time when the need to cut costs was causing redundancies elsewhere at the club and the chairman was having to cover the workload of our recently departed Chief Exec.

I’m not sure how Colin Graves would have pitched that to our bank manager, “Yeah, I know we’re £20 million in debt and we’ve projected another million pound loss in the coming year, but are you ok with us upping the cricket budget by £150,000?” Anyone who thinks they can manage that is free to re-negotiate my overdraft limit as well.

The truth is we had two holes in our bucket at the end of 2010, and only the money to repair one of them with outside help. So perhaps it’s worth remembering that Lancashire has just won the championship with a contribution of 257 runs and ten wickets from their overseas players.

(c) Dave Morton

But then Lancashire’s success has been based around the collective performance of a group of twentysomething, largely home grown players. Exactly the formula Yorkshire was boasting about at the end of last season. Exactly the players Colin Graves was ranting about at the end of this.

Whether he should have been voicing that kind of criticism in public is debatable, but it’s hard to deny that a number of the Yorkshire players underperformed during the season. The form of Lyth, McGrath, and to a lesser extent Sayers, left our top order batting vulnerable and liable to spark a collapse. Patterson lacked the control he’d shown last year that enabled him to be his captain’s ‘handbrake’ on an opposition innings, whilst Rashid and Shahzad saw their partnership-breaking ability diminish as their collective strike rate increased.

With so many senior players low on form it’s little wonder the team underperformed. But the fact that loss of form was so widespread means hard questions need to be asked about preparation as well as execution, and hard questions need to be asked of coaches as well as players.

Exactly what could have been done about Yorkshire’s injury crisis is another matter. It was maddening and had a similar effect to the problems suffered by Durham the summer before. Not only were players being put out of action for large parts of the season, but a number of them – Patterson, Pyrah, Rafiq – were being injured just after running into form.

It was hardly a situation geared towards stable team selection, but then that wasn’t an aspect of Yorkshire’s season from which the burning light of logic always emanated. As a desperation to get the experience of Anthony McGrath into the side certainly appeared to trump concerns about his fitness and form. And whilst Yorkshire’s strategy of playing Adil Rashid throughout the ups and downs of a young legspinner’s form has in the past been admirable, there were times this summer when you felt his confidence would be better served away from the firing-line. The decision to play him at Hove after a poor showing at Taunton just days before, resulted in figures of 0-187, Yorkshire’s third worst bowling return ever. It may have also been the final straw that pushes David Wainwright into the arms of another county.

It’s not as if you felt Rashid always had the full confidence of his captain; with Adil’s introduction to the attack being delayed further and further as the season progressed. But then Gale didn’t appear to have the same confidence in anything this year. Batting too often progressed cautiously, bowling changes seemed more regimented and fields less attacking. He looked like a captain who doubted his team had the ability to win games. It was certainly one that lacked the killer instinct.

(c) Dave Morton

Turning that around for next season will take some hard work during the winter. Difficult decisions may need to be made over the retention of existing staff, both on the field and behind the scenes. Difficult decisions will need to be made over recruitment – although the return of Test cricket to Headingley in 2012 has at least improved our financial situation to the point where an overseas player can be signed.

Honest assessment needs to be made over our planning and preparation. The batting line-up for one-day cricket needs to be sorted out properly – this year we only worked out Bairstow’s position in our 40 over side at the fifth attempt. More thinking needs to be put into catching drill as we can no longer afford to keep our best outfielders in the slips cordon.

But for all the hard work needed we should at least know the talent is there to be promoted back into division one. Hell, man for man we’re as good a squad as the newly crowded county champions. And that’s where much of this season’s disappointment must center. Because there was a lot of hot air expended at the end of last year in praising our young home-grown squad and what they could achieve. Yet it’s Lancashire that’s used a similar blue-print to capture the title whilst we’ve imploded.

It may be time to show some humility and look over the Pennines at how we could better use our resources.

Len

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Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Those who also served #3

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(c) Dave Morton

Azeem Rafiq

FL 20/20

8 games, 22 runs @ 22.00, 8 wickets @ 28.37

…and on loan at Derbyshire…

Championship

3 games, 52 runs @ 17.33, 8 wickets @ 36.62

CB40

5 games, 30 runs @ 30.00, 2 wickets @ 57.50

There’d been rumours during 2010 that Azeem Rafiq had asked for a chance to earn some first-team experience on loan, but it wasn’t until this summer that he got the opportunity to spend a month with Derbyshire.

It proved to be an example of how a loan period can kick start a player’s season. Sure, it wasn’t a huge success statistically but Azeem came back full of confidence – if it’s possible for Rafiq to be any more confident that is. The results were seen immediately with a man of the match performance in his first game back with us, the television Roses 2020 at Old Trafford. It was an impressive display, with 3-15 in front of a large and vocal crowd followed by a cameo with the bat that included two final over scoop shots (one disappearing over each shoulder) to win the game.

Good form continued throughout another ‘difficult’ Yorkshire 2020 campaign until his hamstring went during the home game against Notts, an injury that was to rule Azeem out for the rest of the season.

It was yet another frustrating injury for Yorkshire, yet another frustrating end to a season for Rafiq; a young player of ambition, one with a strong character, one who perhaps feels his career has been held back long enough. If Wainwright does indeed move on, there might well be more opportunity for Azeem to press for a regular place in the Yorkshire team next year.

(c) JCT600 Bradford League

Iain Wardlaw

Championship

1 game, 1 wicket @ 68.00

CB40

1 game, 1 run @ 1.00

FL 20/20

4 games, 2 wickets @ 32.50

The boy from nowhere. Well, not quite. Actually he’s the twenty-six year old league player from Cleckheaton (via some winter trials).

With Cleckheaton being Andy Gale’s club, his appearance on Yorkshire’s books will have set tongues wagging up and down the leagues – we do love a bit of intrigue and a suggestion of favouritism here in the broad acres. But it has to be said that he did as well as any of our seamers in the second eleven this year and on his first-class debut appeared quicker than the other fringe bowlers.

However, given the news of his contract with Yorkshire came out at roughly the time James Lee was released, given that club connection to the Yorkshire captain, and given there are a few bowlers who can look down the Bradford league averages at him this year, he may have some work to do to convince those looking on with a jealous eye.

(c) Dave Morton

Simon Guy

Championship

1 game, 15 runs @ 7.50, 1 catch

CB40

1 game, 2 catches & 1 stumping

With Gerard Brophy injured, Jonny Bairstow on England Lions duty and young Barney Gibson sitting his mock GCSE’s, Yorkshire found themselves in the position of having to call up former club man, Simon Guy, for the Rose’s match at Liverpool.

It says much for Guy’s loyalty that two years after being released he was willing to set aside work commitments to help Yorkshire out in their hour of need. It says even more about his general level of fitness that having done so, he didn’t look out of place behind the stumps.

Of course, Guy’s appearance also highlighted Yorkshire’s wicket-keeping situation. One where Gerard Brophy is coming towards the end of his career (a decision is imminent about a new contract), Bairstow on the verge of the England ODI side and other options untried, or in Barney Gibson’s case, underage.

(c) Dave Morton

Ben Sanderson

CB40

3 games, 2 runs @ 2.00, 1 wicket @ 80.00

FL 20/20

2 games, 5 wickets @ 9.60

Missing pre-season due to an appendectomy isn’t an ideal start to the summer; it isn’t the ideal start to anything really. So after taking a month to recover, and with numerous other seamers on the club’s books, Sanderson never had more than limited opportunities for first team action. They included 4/21 during the 2020 game at Derby, but when taken overall they weren’t enough to ensure a contract extension. Come the end of summer, he was following the same route as Charlie Roebuck the year before, by having a trail with Durham’s second team.

(c) Bradford Telegraph & Argus

Lee Hodgson

CB40

2 games, 0 runs @ 0.00, 2 wickets @ 26.50

After doing well on the pre-season tour of Barbados with both bat and ball, and having been talked up in the press by Martyn Moxon, it looked like Hodgson might get a few more chances this year to impress. Instead it’s been another season where he’s not quite put together the performances for the second eleven needed to force his way into first team reckoning.

Given the club’s stated desire to recruit experienced players during the winter it looks unlikely his contract will be renewed. A entirely logical move, but, as Hodgson remains one of the few members of our squad based outside the large West Riding catchment area, in one sense it’s an unfortunate one as well.

(c) Dave Morton

Alex Lees

CB40

1 game, 12 runs

A summer filled with 1064 runs @ 48.36 for the second eleven and 1194 @ 66.33 for the academy has established the tall left-hander from Halifax as the next of our young batsmen in line for promotion to the first team.

He may have some wait yet however, with half-a-dozen capped batsman and the now firmly established Joe Root and Gary Ballance already fighting it out for the first six places in our starting line-up. Add in the possibility of further recruitment during the winter, and it may be a season or two yet before the eighteen year-old Lees gets a run in the side.

Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Those who also served #2

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(c) Dave Morton

Jacques Rudolph

Championship

4 games, 318 runs @ 45.42

CB40

4 games, 282 runs @ 94.00 (s/r 95.91)

He’d been missed all season, not just for the weight of runs he could score, but for the experience he had as well. In his absence it was made to look like the Yorkshire squad had overly relied on him; that the responsibility he took to build long, match winning, match saving innings, wasn’t being taken up by others.

On his return he made the kind of substantial scores that had been so badly missed; most notably a quick-fire century against Sussex as we attempted to chase down a final day target. Yet somehow we still only scrapped together twenty-three points from the four championship games he played before a South African national training camp had him heading off back to the veld.

That lack of success wasn’t his fault of course; the damage had already been done to our season, the decline already set-in, relegation already close to inevitable. But it was an indication of how you need to get your season right from the beginning. An indication that in 2012, with money now available for an overseas player, we need to ensure they’re put in place as soon as possible.

Ideally that player will be Jacques, but if he can’t give us guarantees as to his availability, we may need to sign someone else before our options narrow and other counties snap up the best talent.

(c) Dave Morton

Tim Bresnan

Championship

3 games, 175 runs @ 43.75, 13 wickets @ 19.38

CB40

1 game, 9 runs @ 9.00, 2 wickets @ 17.00

FL 20/20

3 games, 25 runs, 2 wickets @ 53.00

Exactly how much of Tim Bresnan we were likely to see during the summer had been a difficult factor to calculate during the off-season. He was an ODI regular now, but more of a fringe selection for the test side. So if the other England test bowlers stayed fit and in form, there was the chance we might get a few championship appearances from him after all.

In the end, Yorkshire suffered from just about the worst case scenario. First the ECB asked for Bresnan to be rested for the initial four championship games of the year – quite an imposition given Tim wasn’t even centrally contracted at the time. Then a reoccurrence of his winter calf injury kept him sidelined until recovery coincided with the ODI series against Sri Lanka and a hamstring strain to Chris Tremlett that opened up a place in the Test starting eleven.

Bresnan’s absence was a major blow as he’d been in good form during the few matches he did play for us. The impressive all-round showing against Hampshire in May had almost seen us to victory, whilst a mad dash up from England duty at Lords preceded a four wicket burst that dragged us back into contention during the home Roses match. They were the performances of a mature and greatly improved cricketer.

Much of that improvement most go down to the confidence gained from being in the national set-up. Unfortunately for Yorkshire, it’s likely that England will be the main beneficiary, with few opportunities to play for his county looking likely now that Tim has finally been awarded a central contract. A move which at least frees up his wages to be spent on an overseas player.

(c) Dave Morton

David Wainwright

Championship

3 games, 84 runs @ 21.00, 5 wickets @ 67.20

CB40

10 games, 17 runs @ 8.50, 10 wickets @ 35.00

FL 20/20

8 games, 14 runs, 3 wickets @ 61.67

Own up David, which member of the Yorkshire hierarchy owned the cat you ran over? That’s the reason you got so few opportunities this year, right? It’s the only logical explanation.

Ok, joking aside, Wainwright’s end of season stats don’t indicate a summer where he carried all before him. But ask Yorkshire supporters for our most overlooked, underused player of the year and it’s his name you’ll get. Case in point, how the hell did he fail to get picked at Hove? A ground where he’s saved Yorkshire from relegation twice. You’d have thought match figures of 29.3-3-188-4 in the previous game at Taunton might have tipped us off that Adil wasn’t in the best of form. Yet two days later, it was the struggling leggy who lined up as our lone spinner against Sussex, with the result that he returned 0-187, the third-worst bowling figures ever by a Yorkshire player in the championship.

I believe the in-vogue expression for this is *facepalm*

Of course the stalling of Rashid’s England career has limited Wainwright’s options, as it’s not always possible to fit two spinners into our side, particularly now that championship games have been shoved back into early April. But David’s been an underused player for a number of years now, and it wouldn’t be surprising if he was considering his options elsewhere.

If he is to move, his new county will be getting a fine player. A player who makes things happen, one with a positive approach to the game, one who’s an excellent player of spin.

Just the kind of player Yorkshire needs in fact…

Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Those who also served #1

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(c) Dave Morton

Gerard Brophy

Championship

7 games, 355 runs @ 44.37, 7 catches & 1 stumping

CB40

6 games, 53 runs @ 10.60, 5 catches & 2 stumps

FL 20/20

7 games, 45 runs @ 7.50, 3 catches

How much worse would Yorkshire’s summer have been if we’d lost our opening game against Worcestershire instead of winning it? We may well have found out but for the unbeaten 177 by Gerard Brophy that dragged us from 73/4 to 368 all out during our first innings of the season.

It was a performance that kept him in the side for the next four games despite the runs starting to dry up. But when a thumb injury forced him out of action in mid May he could only watch from the sidelines as Gary Ballance produced a string of assured performances to claim his place at six in the batting order.

Since then chances have been few and far between. So with Bairstow now established as our first choice gloveman, Brophy’s role at the club is likely to as an experienced back-up until one of the younger keepers makes a more pressing case for a pro contract.

(c) Moin Ashraf

Moin Ashraf

Championship

6 games, 21 runs @ 3.00, 10 wickets @ 49.80

CB40

3 games, 2 wickets @ 64.50

After enjoying a successful introduction to first-class cricket at the tail end of 2010, Moin Ashraf was another Yorkshire player to have a difficult second season.

There were some hard lessons learnt for a young bowler who’d decided to take a gap year before attending university so he could concentrate on his cricket career. Certainly during his early season performances there wasn’t quite the impressive line and length he’d shown the previous year, a loss of control perhaps caused by an over eagerness to bowl a jaffer, rather than to build pressure with patience and discipline. If so, it was a tendency he appeared to be overcoming towards the end of the year. A lesson he’ll do well to remember next season when he could well turn out to be a real handful with the tiflix ball.

Further good news is that he’s clearly on the ECB’s radar as a player to monitor for the future, with an appearance for the England Development XI in early August against Sri Lanka A eliciting a strong performance with the ball.

(c) Dave Morton

Oliver Hannon-Dalby

Championship

4 games, 10 runs @ 2.00, 2 wickets @ 162.50

CB40

4 games, 5 wickets @ 28.80

It’s tempting to suggest Hannon-Dalby’s most significant contribution to Yorkshire’s season was to break his captain’s forearm in the nets. There’s certainly little you can take from bare statistics to suggest 2011 was anything but a huge step backwards for a bowler who was an ever present during the previous summer’s championship campaign.

But stats of course only tell part of the story. They don’t tell you of the catches spilled off Oliver’s bowling, or the numerous times he beat the bat of Marcus Threscothick for no reward during our latest nightmare visit to Taunton.

Sure, there’s plenty of work to be done with Hannon-Dalby to make him into the kind of bowler we need – not least finding the additional pace required to upgrade his short ball from hittable into dangerous – yet for me he remains a player worth persevering with.

Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Ajmal Shahzad

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship

10 games, 307 runs @ 23.61, 25 wickets @ 41.00

CB40

9 games, 105 runs @ 17.50, 10 wickets @ 38.70

FL 20/20

9 games, 82 runs @ 16.40, 9 wickets @ 26.88

Oh dear, Ajmal Shahzad; what a season to forget. It started with him returning from England duty carrying a hamstring injury that kept him out of action for the first three championship games. It ended with him being charged by the ECB for damaging the Edgbaston pitch, finding himself on the receiving end of a thinly veiled broadside from Yorkshire chairman, Colin Graves, and with an overt questioning of his attitude from Geoff Boycott.

There’ll be a few watching on from the stands who’ll raise an eyebrow at that Boycott suggestion. From a spectator vantage point Ajmal’s biggest problem seemed to be that he was trying too hard. Giving a hundred percent is commendable, but pace should come from a bowler with rhythm and balance. Try to force it and you can lose control, over step the mark, bowl short, bowl wide, bowl short and wide, leave yourself frustrated and all too often wicketless. So it was with Shahzad for much of the summer.

Injuries were to play a significant part in Ajmal’s season as well; with that early hamstring problem being followed by an ankle injury which dogged him during August. Far from ideal for a bowler who thrives on the rhythm of playing day in day out to get the best from himself. Instead there were times when he was bowling like a Yorkshire Saj Mahmood on a radar off day.

At least there was something more positive about his batting, as the confidence gained from clearing the boundary off Munaf Patel’s bowling during the tied World Cup game against India paved the way for more six hitting during the season. It led to a promotion up the order during the 2020 season and a blistering 59 not out against Kent after running into/out Gary Ballance.

It might be an idea that Ajmal continues to be moved up the order in limited overs games. If we’re going to be more flexible with our one-day batting, and we should, he’s not a bad candidate for a switch-hitting role.

Whether he’ll be around to try that at Yorkshire is still up in the air, as rumours continue to circulate that a move could be in the offing. Despite the poor nature of this season the departure of Shahzad would leave a huge gap in our attack. Given the patience shown to him during his youth, when a series of injuries would have seen many clubs release him, and given the way money was found to meet his contract demands in 2009 you’d hope Ajmal would find himself with us again in April with the resolve to get back to the consistent form of two years ago.

Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Joe Sayers

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship

10 games, 581 runs @ 30.57

CB40

6 games, 71 runs @ 11.83 (s/r 62.83)

FL 20/20

7 games, 154 runs @ 25.66 (s/r 127.27)

What should we have realistically expected from Joe Sayers this season? He was, after all, a player returning from a debilitating illness – one from which it can be difficult to recover, one that can finish a sportsman’s career.

In the end he didn’t score anything like the weight of runs required to compensate for the loss of Jacques Rudolph; but apart from a bruised foot that ruled him out of the Taunton match, remained fit and available for selection all season. I’d guess you’d say his summer was disappointing in the short term but heartening for his future in the game.

The season had started on a low, with two scratchy innings in the opening fixture against Worcestershire leading to a rather ruthless demotion into the seconds. But after making runs away from the first team, Joe was recalled for the championship game at Trent Bridge, and from there put together a string of useful scores before a blow to the foot knocked him out of the side and seemingly knocked him out of his rhythm too. As with Steve Patterson and Richard Pyrah, it was an example of a Yorkshire player picking up an injury just when they’d started to find form.

What followed later in the summer was an unexpected run in the 2020 side, one where blocker turned into slogger, as Sayers ended the competition with the second highest strike rate amongst Yorkshire’s recognised batsmen. That new found freedom didn’t seep into his four-day game however, and concerns about his first-class run rate persist. You’re left wondering if there’s anyone at the club who can help work the quick singles into his game that it so badly needs.

The feeling that Sayers had a less than firm grasp on a first team place lasted for most of the season, until in fact he was given a chance to captain the side in the absence of Andy Gale and Jacques Rudolph. Those two games he had in charge revealed a confident leader, one who garnered positive reviews from those in the Yorkshire camp – a reminder that now Joe has recovered from illness, Gale is no longer the only captaincy option in town.

Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Richard Pyrah

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship

11 games, 376 runs @ 25.06, 29 wickets @ 32.96

CB40

7 games, 93 runs @ 23.25, 7 wickets @ 30.42

FL 20/20

15 games, 62 runs @ 8.85, 21 wickets @ 19.85

Is it right to call someone who’s played at the club for seven years a surprise package? Ok, let’s circle around the phrase ‘unexpected success’ instead. Because that’s how you’d describe Rich Pyrah’s season.

“He’s got a good game for the one-day stuff; fringe player in the championship” – that pretty much sums up the collective opinion before this year. Yet during the winter a lot of hard work’s clearly been put in, both by the player himself, and the much maligned coaches at Headingley.

The improvement in Pyrah’s bowling included the extra half a yard of pace you’d always felt he needed to take wickets consistently in first-class cricket. With it came confidence and extra consistency – the dozen over spell he put in to break the hundred run partnership between Hales and Voges during the Notts home game was as good a piece of sustained pace bowling as we saw all season.

His batting too showed promise, although here there was little consistency. With seven single digit dismissals from sixteen innings to go with the battling 87 made against Durham in April and the remarkable 117 during the home Roses match after he’d arrived at the crease when we were 44/7.

Perhaps more consistency with the bat might have been found had he not been yet another player struck down with injury – in his case a knee cap that popped in and out whilst batting during a CB40 game in early May. Given the nature of what happened it’s probably a testament to Pyrah’s general level of fitness that he was out for less than four weeks. Although I’m not convinced he’d fully recovered from that injury set-back, as after returning to the first team his bowling didn’t seem to have quite the same zip as in early season.

But with all winter to recover fully, and perhaps make further improvement to his game, Pyrah should hopefully be the kind of quality lower-order batsman and back-up seamer we’ll need in division two next year.

Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm