Our final 2021 County Championship Preview is here! We look at Yorkshire today, including the impressive record of Gary Ballance, and the high hopes for the forthcoming season that the White Rose faithful should have...
What Happened Last Year?
Yorkshire had a strong 2020, going undefeated as they topped their Bob Willis Trophy group. With three wins and two draws, they did enough to beat off the North Group competition, but had less points than Essex and Somerset, so missed out on the final.
Durham and Leicestershire were easily defeated in the first and last games, with rain ruining the third and fourth games against Derbyshire and Lancashire. The other win was against Nottinghamshire, which came through an impressive fourth innings fightback with the ball.
Speaking of the ball, wickets wise, Yorkshire's seamers starred, with Ben Coad, Jordan Thompson, Steven Patterson, Matt Thompson and Duanne Olivier taking over 10 wickets. Bar, Olivier, all of these averaged under 20.
Jordan Thompson also performed with the bat, as the 24-year-old, in his first full season, finished with 234 runs. With Dawid Malan making a double hundred in one of his two games, along with Harry Brook and Jack Tattersall making regular contributions to average above 40, it's clear to see why the White Rose had success.
Key Player for 2021
Yorkshire are inundated with talented bowlers, but experienced batter Gary Ballance is my pick for the key man this year. While the Zimbabwean born 31-year-old never quite cracked test cricket (although an average of 37.45 is better than most), he remains a brilliant county cricketer.
Ballance has 11,282 runs, at a 47.4 average in first-class cricket. a quality record in the modern game. While Ballance missed the BWT last year due to health issues, he was the county's leading run scorer in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions of the County Championship, passing 900 runs on each occasion. The White Rose faithful will be hoping his form is similar in 2021.
It'll also be interesting to see if Jordan Thompson can continue with his 2020 form. If so, he'll be a big asset.
England are always looking for high-quality batters, and Harry Brook could well be the next cab off the rank. At 22 he's young, but has played first-class cricket for over four years now, and has 33 games to his record. He's also captained England's under-19s in a World Cup, and hit his maiden hundred against Essex's quality attack.
Sure, his first-class average of 24.24 is hardly knocking the door down, but he scored 258 runs at 43 in the 2020 BWT, and should his form continue to grow, he will be capped in the test arena sooner rather than later.
Watch out also for Ben Coad, who I was lucky enough to interview a few weeks back. He is a fine bowler, who could be considered for the test side in the future.
Target for this Year
In Group Three, with Glamorgan, Kent, Lancashire, Northamptonshire and Sussex, Yorkshire should back themselves for a good year. Kent will be a challenge, and Lancashire could push them, but a top two finish is to be expected.
Lockie Ferguson is a brilliant signing for the t20 Blast, and the retention of Duanne Olivier will continue to aid the Yorkshire side.
Furthermore, the addition of Dom Bess on a full contract will give him the chance to develop, perhaps as Yorkshire, and then England's main spinner, for the years to come.
And with Joe Root available for the first two games, the county have the chance of a good start.