ANDREW GALE believes that Yorkshire’s batsmen are struggling to cope with the pressure and expectation of playing for the club.
The county’s first-team coach made his comments as he wrestled with the key question as to why they are consistently failing to score enough runs.
Yorkshire’s batting problems came to a head this week when they were bowled out for 113 and 150 to lose to leaders Essex at Scarborough inside two days.
Yorkshire’s third defeat in four Championship matches effectively ended their own title aspirations, and it left them looking anxiously over their shoulders towards the relegation zone ahead of their final four Championship fixtures next month.
“The lads are working really hard,” said Gale, “but as soon as they get to the crease, everything seems to go out of the window.
“That can only be down to the pressure, the expectation they either put on themselves or from the outside, so it’s up to them to be honest with themselves and deal with that.
None of the Yorkshire top-six in action at Scarborough are averaging more than 30 in this year’s competition. When Yorkshire won the Championship in 2014, the last time they consistently posted big totals, they had nine players averaging 40 or above.Chris Waters
“We’ve got to get the mental side of the game right, and if you’d watched training on Saturday before the Essex game, you’d have backed any single one of them to get a hundred.
“They’d worked really hard going into the game, but it’s that pressure that’s stopping them from succeeding.
“September is going to be a big month for us, and all we can do is fight and get back to playing how we know we can play.”
None of the Yorkshire top-six in action at Scarborough are averaging more than 30 in this year’s competition.
Ever-present openers Adam Lyth and Alex Lees are averaging 24 and 21 respectively, with an average first-wicket stand of 21.
Harry Brook, the highly-rated 18-year-old who is just starting out, averages 13 from four matches; new signing Tom Kohler-Cadmore averages 15 from two; Jack Leaning averages 30 from six, and acting captain Tim Bresnan averages 15 from eight appearances, with five ducks in 11 innings.
The Yorkshire batsmen averaging over 30 are club captain Gary Ballance (101), who missed the Scarborough match through injury, and who remains a major doubt for Friday’s T20 game against Lancashire at Headingley, overseas player Peter Handscomb (33), who has now left the club, and pace bowler Jack Brooks (32).
All-rounder Adil Rashid is averaging 26 from six games, while wicketkeeper Andy Hodd is averaging 22 from eight.
“You know, I look down the teamsheet and I believe in this group of players,” added Gale.
“There’s definitely players there who can make big runs in first-class cricket, and it just happens that they’re all out of form at the same time.
“It’s not through lack of effort, there’s no doubt about that.
“But whereas over the last two or three years we’ve really got out of trouble through one or two individuals, we’re still searching for the necessary consistency.”
When Yorkshire won the Championship in 2014, the last time they consistently posted big totals, they had nine players averaging 40 or above – Adam Lyth (67), Gary Ballance (65), Kane Williamson (57), Aaron Finch (48), Jonny Bairstow (46), Joe Root (45), Alex Lees (44), Andrew Gale (43) and Rich Pyrah (40).
When they won it again in 2015, eight players achieved or exceeded that mark – Jonny Bairstow (92), Cheteshwar Pujara (52), Tim Bresnan (49), Ryan Sidebottom (47), Aaron Finch (41), Glenn Maxwell (40), Andrew Gale (40) and Jack Leaning (40).
However, Yorkshire were greatly indebted in 2015 to Bairstow, whose runs they have been unable to replace, with the England man making a habit of digging them out of trouble which then allowed a top-class bowling attack to capitalise.
When Yorkshire finished third last year, narrowly failing to win a hat-trick of titles, they had seven players averaging 40 or more – Jonny Bairstow (88), Joe Root (80), Jake Lehmann (54), Tim Bresnan (48), Liam Plunkett (44), Adam Lyth (40) and Alex Lees (40), although Bairstow and Root played only six games between them due to international duty.
The contrast this season is stark and to some degree mystifying, with Yorkshire’s batsmen having proved in the past that they can handle the pressure of representing the county.
The players have access to such as sports psychologists, with Yorkshire leaving no stone unturned behind the scenes.
Asked what the key is to turning things around, having fought through dips in form in his own playing days, Gale said: “You’ve got to be honest with yourself and realise why you are out of form and what it’s down to.
“You’ve got to go back to when you were successful and realise what works for you and try to replicate that as much as you can out in the middle.
“At the minute, you’re seeing a shadow of the players that we know they can be.
“We need to get back to basics and doing them well.”