Ottis Gibson believes his Yorkshire side have this season made strides forward in their bid to be more dynamic with the ball and in turn win LV= Insurance County Championship fixtures.
Coach Gibson has been reflecting on his side’s progression in four-day cricket throughout 2023, something which the Bajan has been satisfied with.
It has without doubt been a challenging year for the bowlers in particular, with few pitches being conducive to taking wickets.
Bat has regularly dominated ball, as was highlighted during last week’s draw against Glamorgan at Cardiff when a used pitch just got better and better and the hosts lost only three wickets as they comfortably batted out day four.
Rain has clearly hampered Yorkshire’s bid to finish higher up Division Two. The final day of both matches against Sussex being washed out with the county in winning positions are obvious examples.
Yorkshire’s next chance to demonstrate their progression comes against promotion-chasing Leicestershire at the Uptonsteel County Ground, Grace Road, starting on Tuesday (10.30am).
It is the penultimate round of matches, with Gibson’s charges searching for their third win from 13 matches – one which would lift them off the bottom of the table.
“Leicester, they chased 390 against us in the first game of the season, and they’ve played really good cricket the whole year,” said Gibson, a former Fox during his playing days. “They’re a very good team who are pushing for promotion.
“It’s going to be a good four days, and we’re looking forward to that.”
Yorkshire face a Leicestershire side who on Saturday won the Metro Bank One-Day Cup final against Hampshire, recovering from 89-6 to win a last-ball thriller by two runs as they defended a 268 target.
It was their first piece of silverware since winning the T20 Blast in 2011 and their first List A title in 38 years.
This is a must win game for Leicestershire. With two rounds remaining, they are fourth in the table, 21 points behind second-placed Worcestershire. Even victory may not be enough to keep the Foxes hopes alive.
For Yorkshire, however, they go into this fixture with 2024 in their sights. That may be reflected in team selection, says Gibson.
“Everything we are doing now is with next season in mind,” he continued. Who do we need to see this year with next year in mind?
“We’re looking forward to finishing this year, and then we’ll sit down to see what we need to do next year to make sure that we can get ourselves out of the second division.
“But this season, especially in this format, we’ve been ok.”
Yorkshire’s two victories may have come away from Headingley this summer – both against Derbyshire at Chesterfield and Scarborough.
But Gibson has praised his players for their improved ability to deal with conditions on the road.
“If we play at Headingley on a green pitch, the way the pitches have been this year, you’re backing your bowling line-up to go and take 20 wickets,” he said.
“But the key for us is that when we come away from home on pitches like at Cardiff, have we got the skill and craft to be able to unlock batting line-ups and take 20 wickets?
“I thought one of our better bowling performances was down at Sussex (in April, bowling the hosts out for 137 in their second innings to set up a victory chance).
“I thought we bowled well in that game which we should have won but for the rain.
“Last year there were times where we had this ‘keep it dry’ attitude. I think I’ve spoken about that to you already. This year, we’ve been a lot more pro-active with the fields that we’ve been setting. We’ve tried to get wickets in different ways.
“You saw Matthew Revis with the short ball ploy at Glamorgan, setting really attacking fields and trying to take wickets.
“The attitude around trying to take wickets has been a lot better than it was last year, for sure.
“All in all, the experience of Coad taking wickets, especially with the new ball, Jordan’s still developing, Rev is getting better. It’s been unfortunate that we haven’t been able to see a lot of Milnes and Edwards, especially.
“Leech has had an opportunity in the first team, Cliffy’s had an opportunity. Hilly probably hasn’t taken as many wickets as he did at the back end of last year. He had a hot spell where he got a lot of wickets.”
As aforementioned by Gibson, Leicestershire won the reverse fixture at Headingley – the opening round of the season at the start of April.
Yorkshire posted 517 all out in the first innings, but the Foxes recovered impressively and chased a 389 target to win by three wickets with seven balls to spare on day four.