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Gale: Sidebottom will be hard to replace but we have David Willey

By Charlie Talbot-Smith

Yorkshire stepped up their preparations for the new season last week by flying out to South Africa where a 20-strong squad will be based in the north-west region of Potchefstroom for the next fortnight.

Led by head coach Andrew Gale – in his second season in charge – and skipper Gary Ballance, Yorkshire will play a two-day game against Nottinghamshire next week followed by back-to-back 50-over matches, against the same opponents and then Leeds-Bradford University.

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Yorkshire complete their South African training with a two-day match between themselves before coming home the week after next.

“The lads have been back at Headingley since mid-November, so this trip is an opportunity to get some practice outside,” explains Gale.

“You can only do so much indoors and the players need to be put under some pressure. The facilities at Potchefstroom are first class and we are guaranteed decent weather.

“Looking ahead to the summer, we have five County Championship games before white ball cricket starts, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow will be available to play in two of them.

“This year is going to be a massive season for Dave Willey. He’s desperate to play red-ball cricket in the Championship. He’s had a stop-start life in county cricket with us and Dave, who’s played lot of white-ball stuff, has to impress the coaches and the skipper.

“He’ll be flying out for our second week and if Dave can get the red ball swinging, he gives us a different option now that Ryan Sidebottom has retired.

“No one can replace Ryan but Dave is a competitor, we know what he can do with the bat and he now has the opportunity to put his name forward.

“ Throughout the squad, there’s a lot of competition for places. Adil Rashid’s decision to play white-ball cricket only has changed things so when it comes to spinners; Azeem Rafiq (off-spin) and Karl Carver (slow left arm), understand there’ll be opportunities.

“So they’ll be the front runners to take over from Rashid in Championship cricket, but we’ve also got the spin of batters Adam Lyth and Jack Leaning. Jack’s looked good in the nets,” Gale stressed.

Quick bowler Liam Plunkett, whose opportunities for England in one-day games have been restricted because of a hamstring injury, will also join his Yorkshire team-mates in South Africa where he’ll complete his rehab.

Yorkshire, who finished fourth in Division One of the Championship last season but, in reality, narrowly avoided relegation, have strengthened the batting in all three formats by the recruitment of two world-class batsmen – Indian star Cheteshwar Pujara (14 Test hundreds) and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson (17 Test centuries).

Champions in 2014 and 2015, Yorkshire have the toughest of starts to the 2018 season by taking on the current title holders, Essex, at Headingley, beginning on Friday April 13.

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