Yorkshire v Middlesex: Cricket by the sea in hands of Yorkshire members

YORKSHIRE return to Scarborough tomorrow for the first of their two annual County Championship matches at the seaside ground.

Saturday, 2nd July 2016, 9:00 am
Crowds enjoy the sunshine at North Marine Road, Scarborough

Members and supporters may be keener than usual to make the most of it.

From next year, there is no guarantee that Scarborough will continue to stage two Championship matches, with each county playing one fewer Championship home game in a revamped structure.

For Yorkshire, the question they are now addressing is: do they take one Championship match from Scarborough from 2017 onwards, or one Championship match from their Headingley headquarters?

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Yorkshire's Alex Lees

It is a tricky decision and one which Mark Arthur, the club’s chief executive, promises will be taken only after the views of supporters and stakeholders have been fully considered.

Arthur, a cricket traditionalist, has personal affection for North Marine Road and is keen that everyone should have their say.

As the champions prepare to take on Middlesex tomorrow in another key match in Division One, Arthur insists that Yorkshire will seek a range of opinions.

“At present, we play two Championship matches and two one-day games at Scarborough each year,” he said.

Yorkshire's Alex Lees

“With the new structure, the options on the table are to keep two Championship games at Scarborough and move its two one-day matches back to Headingley, or to keep the two one-day games at Scarborough and to just play one Championship game there.

“We want to get the views of our members and we have already been talking to the members’ committee.

“The next part of the process is that we will go to the Yorkshire board with a recommendation, and then we will go out to the members and stakeholders to get further feedback from them with a view to the board making a final decision at the end of the season.”

North Marine Road is often described as the jewel in Yorkshire’s cricketing crown and the club are naturally keen to protect it.

“We will be looking at a number of issues – including the fact that one-day games are set to be played in May rather than later in the year,” added Arthur.

“Scarborough produces the best aggregate crowds for Championship cricket, of course, and we have to make sure, together with the ECB, that we maintain a level of income for Scarborough so that they can maintain their facilities as a first-class cricket ground, because if you drop the level of income going into it then they will have to cut corners.

“That would probably mean that, in two years’ time, the ground wouldn’t be fit for purpose, so we, and the ECB, have an obligation to make sure that festival venues such as Scarborough are maintained.

“Basically, we’re going through a proper process on this, and we’ve also got to bear in mind the cricket side of things.

“What do the cricket department and the players think about it?

“The members may say that they want to play that extra Championship game at Leeds, we don’t know.

“That’s why we’re canvassing opinion.

“I’ve never had a dictatorial approach, and I want the club to be as inclusive as possible.”

Yorkshire have a fine recent record in the Championship at Scarborough, where they have won their last four games – including a 220-run win over this week’s opponents two years ago.

Alex Lees, the talented opening batsman and one-day captain, is certainly looking forward to going back to the ground where Yorkshire also play Notts in the Championship next month.

“The lads look forward to playing at Scarborough,” said Lees. “It’s usually a good cricket wicket with pace and bounce, and a bit in it for the bowlers.

“The lads are in good spirits, and most of the squad have had a rest this past week. Hopefully, we get some decent weather and four days’ cricket, and we’ll see where that takes us.”

Yorkshire are second in the division, nine points behind Lancashire with a game in hand, while Middlesex are third – two points behind Yorkshire having played a game more.

This fixture completes the first half of Yorkshire’s Championship programme, and they are well-placed to “kick on” in the second half of the season with injured players such as strike bowlers Ryan Sidebottom and Jack Brooks on the mend.

However, they will be wary of a Middlesex side who are the only team to have beaten them in the Championship in the last two seasons.

Yorkshire lost by 246 runs at Lord’s last summer in the match in which they clinched the title, while they went down by seven wickets at the same venue in 2014 after Middlesex chased down 472.

“Middlesex are a strong team and they’re the only team to beat us in the last few years,” said Lees.

“We need to be on our A-game, or we could find ourselves in a difficult position.

“We’re in a good position in the league, but if you look too far ahead, you more often than not come undone.

“We are going to take the same approach that we do every game and session, and hopefully we can get a victory.”

Lees has looked good with the bat in recent days and hopes to keep that going.

“I feel good and I’ve struck the ball relatively well all year,” he said.

“Hopefully, I can create some nice consistency heading into the second half of the season.”