Strong Yorkshire fancied for title treble

Alex Lees will take charge in the limited-overs formats © Getty Images

Head coach: Jason Gillespie

Captain: Andrew Gale (Champ); Alex Lees (T20, 50)

Last season

Specsavers Championship: Winners Div 1; NatWest Blast: 8th North Group; Royal London Cup: semi-finals

In: David Willey (Northamptonshire)

Out: Josh Shaw (Gloucestershire – loan), Rich Pyrah (retired), Moin Ashraf, Dan Hodgson, Jonny Tattersall (all released)

Overseas: Kane Williamson (June-July), Travis Head (July onwards)

2015 in a nutshell

Yorkshire strode to their second successive Championship, spearheaded by Jonny Bairstow’s runs and Jack Brooks’ wickets, but essentially Andrew Gale’s side had matchwinners wherever you looked. Their ability to win competitions and provide players for England (virtually everybody possessed international potential) told of a county reborn, but a semi-final defeat in the Royal London Cup and a shocking T20 season ensured that satisfaction was tempered.

2016 prospects

Yorkshire incontestably have the strongest Championship squad in the country and are favourites to win a third successive title. Their weakness is a lack of spin bowling, which would be exposed if Adil Rashid gets regular England calls, leaving Kyle Carver and Tom Craddock hoping for progress. New signing David Willey is just one of seven seam bowlers chasing four spots (one of them, Tim Bresnan, misses the opening six weeks with a torn calf) which leaves options for rotation in the last 16-match season. Bairstow’s summer is likely to be England heavy, perhaps Gary Ballance’s too, so Adam Lyth, Jack Leaning and Alex Lees need strong seasons. Yorkshire’s young T20 side last season was an impatient reaction to the failure of senior players; it will be interesting to see who Lees leads on to the field. Travis Head’s T20 arrival tells of strong links between Headingley and Adelaide fired by Jason Gillespie’s coaching role in both cities.

Key player

Alex Lees, in charge in both limited-overs competitions, is Yorkshire’s youngest captain since Lord Hawke and his challenge is to encourage a more inventive approach in T20 – a challenge not helped by the late arrival of both overseas players. But he also has his batting form to look at after averaging only 33.12 in the Championship last year despite being regularly touted as another young Yorkshire batsman who can graduate to the England side.

Bright young thing

With so many seam bowlers at Yorkshire’s disposal – many handy with the blade as well – it will be a challenge for Will Rhodes to force his way into the side, but he showed up well during Yorkshire’s defeat against MCC in Abu Dhabi and can mature this summer with bat and ball.

ESPNcricinfo verdict

A hat-trick of titles is within range – Middlesex and Warwickshire look the main threats to that – but much attention will also be on Lees can invigorate Yorkshire’s T20 cricket in a way that pulls in full houses at Headingley for more than just the Roses match.

Bet365 odds: Specsavers Championship, Div 1: 13/8F; NatWest Blast 7/1; Royal London Cup 5/1F

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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