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Last of the 2011 Whine – Adam Lyth

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship

11 games, 553 runs @ 26.33

CB40

11 games, 311 runs @ 28.54 (s/r 80.51)

FL 20/20

15 games, 306 runs @ 25.50 (s/r 114.60)

‘Put our best fielders between extra cover and gully; then wait for the loose shot outside off’ – not an actual quote from an opposition coach’s notes on bowling at Adam Lyth, but it may as well have been.

How many times did we see him get out like that? How many times had he made a twenty or thirty run start when he did? It’s little wonder that after two months trying to drum home the importance of maintaining concentration, it was the turn of Gale and Moxon to lose patience when selecting the team for Hove. Given the series of soft dismissals to which he’d already succumbed, and an average floundering in the mid twenties, Lyth could hardly make a compelling argument to stay in the side. If he’d been in the form of 2010, the suggestion of being dropped would never have arisen, but by now the tidal wave of runs from the previous year had reduced to a trickle. Even so, Lyth would still be forgiven for raising a quizzical eyebrow at the continued inclusion of Anthony McGrath, who at that point in the season was only averaging fourteen himself.

But with his run of twenty-five consecutive championship appearances broken, Lyth was in and out of the side for the remainder of the summer; with attempts to find better form in the reserves and with his home club Scarborough meeting with similar ‘bright start, then out’ results.

Of course, this was always likely to be a challenging year for Lyth. The difficult second full season when experienced heads in the opposition have worked out a young player’s game; the difficult second full season when that young player might have to make subtle changes to his technique and approach if he wants to continue to progress. Instead Adam seemed trapped in a loop of promising starts followed by soft dismissals from poorly chosen shots. With the confident stoke play that pierced gaps in the field last season finding the waiting hands of fielders during this.

Those problems with concentration and shot selection urgently need correcting during the off-season, as it’s hard to see a tendency to play loosely outside off stump being anything other than a disaster against the early exaggerated swing afforded by the tiflex balls he’ll face next season in division two.

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Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:09 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Gary Ballance

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship

 11 games, 717 runs @ 42.17

CB40

9 games, 331 runs @ 55.16 (s/r 97.35)

FL 20/20

13 games, 215 runs @ 23.88 (s/r 125.73)

After three years spent largely in Yorkshire’s reserves, with little impact made during the fleeting first-team opportunities that came his way, an off-season playing for Mid West Rhinos in his native Zimbabwe appears to have been the catalyst to kick-start Gary Ballance’s career. As whatever your opinions about the standard of Zimbabwean domestic cricket, scoring almost a thousand runs in all forms of the game, including five centuries, must have boosted the confidence of a talented batsman who was in danger of stagnating in our second eleven.

That Zimbabwean form was turned into solid pre-season performances, and Ballance can consider himself unlucky that Joe Root beat him to a starting place for the opening championship game against Worcestershire. In fact a reoccurring question amongst supporters during the first few weeks of the summer was exactly what Ballance had to do to get a first-team opportunity. It seemed that whilst the championship side was lurching from one batting collapse to another, Ballance kept piling on runs for the colts.

When finally given a chance, in the injury hit CB40 team that faced Kent on May 15th, he suffered one of the more bizarre dismissals of the year by being run out for 47 after colliding mid-pitch with Ajmal Shahzad.  All that talent lying collapsed in a heap – it’s as good a metaphor for Yorkshire’s season as any.

But that innings, plus a call-up to the Lions for Jonny Bairstow, meant a place in the championship side for the next game. He’s remained there ever since, with an innings of 50 or more scored in nine out of eleven championship matches a testament to how reliable a performer he’s become.

It’s tempting to draw a parallel with Bairstow’s first season in 2009, as Ballance has slotted in at number six and played a number of confident rearguard innings to save Yorkshire from defeat – the four hour 73 not out on the final day at Hove and the battling half century at Chester-le-Street being prime examples. But if anything this has been an even more accomplished introduction to first-team cricket.

His weight of shot, particularly an ability to clear the boundary, marks him out as the kind of batsmen we’ve lacked in one-day cricket. So after playing a series of assured innings in the CB40 competition, the number five position in our ListA line-up looks to have been nailed down for the foreseeable future.

Better returns are needed in 2020, but here he suffers from being pushed too far down the order. It tends to be the top four who dictate a 2020 innings and I’d suggest Yorkshire will ultimately be better served with him playing there. At the moment we’re all too often seeing our least experienced batsmen, Ballance and Root, trying to guide Yorkshire home after we’ve already fallen behind the asking run-rate.

Fielding is another area for improvement. It might be an idea for the club dietician to insist Gary spends mealtimes sat next to Adil and Adam rather than Anthony; although it’s debatable whether a wise decision at the crossroads of life for his abs would help avoid some of the dropped catches we saw in the Worcestershire game at Scarborough. Clearly it’s an area ‘to be worked on’.

There are further concerns surrounding Zimbabwe’s re-introduction to international cricket. Just how long will it be before their selectors consider him one of the best five or six options available to them?  If that happens, could we see Ballance become our official overseas player? One called upon in series that clash with the English domestic calendar?

It’s a worrying thought that after years of patiently preparing him for first-team action he could be lost to us at vital times during future seasons…

Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Steve Patterson

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship – 11 games, 130 runs @ 13.00, 21 wickets @ 46.33

CB40 – 6 games, 12 wickets @ 18.66

FL 20/20 – 2 games, 1 wicket @ 146.00

So, Steve Patterson, one of last season’s unexpected successes, one of this season’s numerous disappointments. Sure, he’s not a marquee player for Yorkshire, rather someone who became a vital, if unheralded, part of the attack. The hand brake applied to the opposition innings; the clamp placed on run scoring that would result in a wicket for himself, or the bowler operating from the other end.

His was another season dogged by fitness problems and inconsistent form.

He’d actually started the year well, with wickets aplenty on the pre-season tour of Barbados and in the warm-up game against Leeds/Bradford University. But after a relatively unthreatening performance with the ball in the opening home game against Durham, Patterson found himself dropped for the following game against Notts. A “shock” he admitted later, one that caused him to take stock of how he’d been playing.

On his return to the side there was a gradual improvement in control in the championship, and some impressive one-day performances against Kent and Worcestershire. But just when it looked like he was starting to regain his 2010 form, a side-strain picked up in the home 2020 game against Derbyshire was to take him out of action for almost eight weeks.

The first part of that layoff was during the interminable 2020 season, a form of the game where at times Patterson’s been little more than cannon-fodder. But the overall effect of such a serious injury was to set back his rhythm once again, with three wickets in the seventy seven championship overs he bowled after returning to fitness an indication of his lack of penetration at that point in the season.

As with so many of Yorkshire’s players it’s Patterson’s 2010 form that needs to be recaptured next season, as there were so many occasions this season when an opposition partnership was taking the game away from us and Andy Gale was searching round for a bowling option to bring the innings back under control. How much better this summer could have been if he’d had an in form Steve Patterson to join Ryan Sidebottom in strangling us back into the game.

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September 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Anthony McGrath

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship

12 games, 485 runs @ 21.08, 1 wicket @ 56.00

CB40

5 games, 76 runs @ 19.00 (s/r 87.35)

FL 20/20

9 games, 92 runs @ 13.14 (103.37), 3 wickets @ 14.00

If 1992 was the Queen’s annus horribilis, then 2011 was certainly Anthony McGrath’s seasonus dreadfulis.

The problems started back in March with the need for arthroscopic surgery to rectify wear and tear on his left knee; an operation that wiped out any chance of him taking part in pre-season training or the opening championship game at Worcester. But it was the subsequent related sciatic pain in his back – a problem so bad, at times he struggled to climb stairs – which was to sideline McGrath for much of May. Exactly how much residual pain there was after his return to the side, and how badly that affected his ability to bat, only the player himself will know. But his form throughout the summer was shocking. With only three scores over fifty in thirty innings simply not good enough for a player of his talent and experience.

What’s doubly frustrating is that with Rudolph back in South Africa, this was a year we needed to lean heavily on that ability and know-how. Instead it was the younger batsmen who shouldered much of the run-scoring burden, whilst supporters have become familiar with the sight of Mags shuffling across his stumps to be out lbw – a mode of dismissal to which he succumbed more than a dozen times during the summer. Even more annoying is the knowledge that every time he was given a chance to find some form in the second eleven or for the academy, he scored heavily; and every time he walked out for the first team again, he failed to carry that weight of runs with him.

The fact he continued to be picked, whilst others like Lyth and Sayers were dropped, raised the suspicion that faith in experience was being valued higher than anything approaching hard headed logic; as well as prompting accusations of favouritism from some sections of our support.

McGrath of course has been player whose season-to-season form has often fluctuated during his career. But the worrying thought is that after a period of consistently heavy run-scoring between 2003 and 2007, the last four seasons have seen only 3303 runs scored at an average under thirty-four.

If Yorkshire is to have a successful promotion campaign next year they need better form that that from their senior batting pro. And should it fail to materialise, management will need the resolve to pick players on current form rather than past reputation.

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September 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Andy Gale

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship – 12 matches, 769 runs @ 40.47

CB40 – 9 matches, 316 runs @ 35.11 (s/r 75.06)

FL 20/20 – 15 matches, 418 runs @ 32.15 (s/r 135.28)

Question: Is the Yorkshire captaincy a chalice that’s half full or half empty of poison? Well, I’d imagine most Yorkshire supporters could answer that one, but for the full workings out in the margin you’d need to ask Andy Gale, a man who’s been leading a side that’s spent the entire summer failing to meet expectations, whilst having their every move questioned.

Gale’s captaincy in particular has been under the microscope – as is often the case with a struggling side – but for now there seems no great groundswell of feeling that he should pay the price for Yorkshire’s relegation. That’s probably due to reserves of goodwill left over from the confident way he lead the side last year, as well as an acceptance that the lack of form and fitness amongst some of our key players has seriously undermined efforts with bat and ball.

That still leaves question marks about defensive field settings, puzzling team selection, an ever-changing one-day batting line-up and the lack of confidence in individual form resulting in an overly cautious collective approach to match play – topics to be tackled in more depth by my overall review of the season.

What has remained relatively constant from 2010 is the captaincy’s apparent lack of effect on Gale’s personal form.

It helped that he entered the season on the back of a successful stint (411 runs @ 45.66) with England Lions in the West Indies regional four-day competition – although in hindsight you wonder just how disruptive it was to have our club captain absent for so long during the crucial pre-season period.

But once the summer got under way there’s been dependability to Gale’s form; one all to absent from other senior players. He’s perhaps not scored quite the weight of runs you’d have hoped in the championship, but there were some important innings played – highlights being a four hour rearguard to save the match at Durham and a remarkable unbeaten 145 against Notts, 80 of which came during a final wicket stand of 82 with Oliver Hannon-Dalby.

In the CB40 he was our best batsman during the early games in April and May, before a tailing off of form mirrored Yorkshire’s ignominious drop to below the Netherlands in the final Group A table. Whilst during 2020 season he looked to be the only Yorkshire player who’d really got a handle on how to bat in that format of the game.

Eventually it all came to a frustrating end, with a fractured right forearm whilst batting in the nets against Oliver Hannon-Dalby in early August. That left him with an orthopaedic cast like something out of Carry on Matron, and a watching brief during the next championship game against Warwickshire when our second innings batting collapse appeared equally farcical.

Now the season’s finally over it’s hard to say whether Gale’s done enough to make this winter’s Lions tour, or whether the selectors will feel there are better, younger, options available to them. From a Yorkshire point of view, it might be preferable that he has the entire off-season to spend plotting how we get straight back into division one.

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September 6, 2011 at 12:05 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Jonny Bairstow

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship

13 games, 1015 runs @ 46.13, 43 catches

CB40

10 games, 385 runs @ 38.50 (s/r 115.96)

FL 20/20

15 games, 203 runs @ 18.45 (s/r 118.02)

Remember this time last year when everyone was all, “by ‘eck, our Jonny’s a good player. Bit worried he’s never made it to three figures though.” Well, 12 months, four centuries and a top score of 206 later, that all seems a bit of a needless fuss doesn’t it? Still, it gave supporters a chance to point out the glass was half empty, not cleaned properly and in danger of chipping their teeth when they drank from it, and ultimately isn’t that cricket’s place in Yorkshire’s cultural life?

There were other concerns back then of course. Playing spin wasn’t the strongest part of Bairstow’s game; but there’s been improvement here too, although not as spectacular a leap forward as with his ability to construct a long innings. His wicketkeeping needed tidying up as well, and again improvement has been made, without him being at the Chris Read/James Foster level quite yet.

The lingering question of whether his future is as a wicketkeeper or specialist batsman seems resolved, for now at least, with him taking the gloves in championship games. That’s not stopped him from moving up to number five in the order, from where he can have more influence over the course of our innings. An influence made at a rapid strike rate of 69 runs per 100 balls and with an impressive return of 1015 runs from just thirteen games.

In fact, the only real concern this year was that the red hot form of early season (739 runs @ 57.62) cooled after the start of 2020 season. So despite making 50 & 109 not out for England Lions in early August, there was nothing better than 38 in the championship between the first day of June and the final day of the season, with just 266 runs coming in his final six games.

That change of form once 2020 was upon us is perhaps no coincidence, as Bairstow was being shunted up and down the order in limited overs games all season. In the CB40 he started in the middle order, was moved up to open, dropped down again to six, before finally making the first wicket down position his own with a brutal century at Lords, followed by two more fifties against Sussex and Worcestershire. In 2020 he was tried out as Andy Gale’s opening partner before eventually being moved to six and replaced at the top by Joe Sayers. In years to come cricket historians might have the odd scratched head over that move, although it actually made far more sense in reality than it might to them on paper.

With all that constant moving around the batting order, added to numerous England call up’s where he either ended up batting at seven, or was made twelfth man, was it any wonder he lost some of his rhythm?

If there’s one lesson we should to take from this year, it’s that we need to work out Jonny’s place in the batting order, work out his job in each format of the game, and then let him stick with it.

Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Last of the 2011 Whine – Joe Root

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(c) Dave Morton

Championship

15 games, 937 runs @ 36.03, 7 wks @ 45.57

CB40

6 games, 172 runs @ 34.40 (s/r 67.18), 2 wks @ 44.50

FL 20/20

9 games, 106 runs @ 21.20 (s/r 100.00), 1 wkt @ 34.00

Viewed from a distance you could be forgiven for thinking Joe Root leads some kind of charmed life when it comes to his cricketing career. For years he was seen as the blue-eyed boy of Yorkshire’s youth set up, before being singled out for greatness by a ceremonial passing on of the baton – in his case the handing over of a musty old thigh guard from fellow Sheffield opener, Michael Vaughan. Then, what must have been a close run selection ahead of Gary Ballance for the opening game of the season was followed by a combination of loss of form and fitness by others that’s given him a regular place ever since. All topped off in August by being picked for England Lions before he’d even completed a first team century. It’s as if the waters of the Red Sea were parting before him.

Except of course, the reality is rather more mundane. With those events a reflection of years of hard work and a talent identified early by better judges than you’ll find watching in the stands beyond the boundary rope.

Even so, Root has been a rare Yorkshire success story in 2011.

Pressure on him to do well had started to build at the end of the previous season when Jacques Rudolph left the club and a decision was made to use his wages to recruit Ryan Sidebottom rather than a specialist batsman. That left the onus on one, or both, of Root and Gary Ballance to replace someone who’d scored the best part of 2,500 runs in 2010. A fair old ask given at that point they’d only two championship appearances between them.

It was Root who was given the first opportunity; one he took with no small amount of composure given his position at the top of a struggling batting order. So far his performances have been solidly impressive without him quite matching some of the dominant displays seen from Yorkshire’s other young batsmen Bairstow and Ballance. But it’s his manner at the crease that catches the eye and holds the promise of more to come, with a level-headed calm, allied to crisp, confident footwork and an impressive range of stokes – he’s one of the few members of our squad to play the reverse sweep without you having to watch from between your fingers.

In future seasons a championship run rate in the low forties will need improving; as when we open with the Root/Sayers combination, the maximum batting bonus target of 400 from 110 overs can soon look an almost impossible task. There needs to be power added to placement in one-day cricket as well, as for now his position in the shorter format is as much based on an ability to supplement our attack with some useful off-spin and give balance to a team that in the last few seasons has played a batsman light.

In the field he’s perhaps not the quickest of our younger players over the ground, but for someone who looks about six stone dripping wet there’s a surprisingly decent arm – his direct hit from the deep to run out Stephen Moore in the home Rose’s 2020 game is one of the stand out memories from the season. Although the fact a run out has made my internal highlights reel pretty much tells you everything you need to know about Yorkshire’s summer. A more comforting thought is that Root’s overall performance this year is another highlight.

Next season we’ll need to see him avoid the sophomore blues suffered by Adam Lyth if we’re to bounce straight back into division one. But in the long term, Root looks like a player with the talent to have a significant role in Yorkshire’s future.

Written by ThatCricketBlogger

September 6, 2011 at 12:03 pm