Cricket: Tough start for Yorkshire as champions Essex kick off County Championship campaign at Headingley

Tykes skipper Gary Ballance
Tykes skipper Gary Ballance
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Yorkshire will open the season and their Specsavers County Championship campaign against holders Essex at Emerald Headingley Stadium on Friday April 13.

Gary Ballance’s men face the defending champions twice in the opening month of the season. Essex are now coached by former Yorkshire favourite Anthony McGrath.

“It makes it all the more real,” said Tykes coach Andrew Gale. “It drives you on in training when the fixtures come out. They look pretty good and with the two home games in the Championship to start with , we can make a good, solid start. We’ve made Headingley a bit of a fortress in previous years so it’s important we can get out of the blocks well.

“It will be a good test playing against the champions Essex first up. You want to test yourself and if there’s ever a time to play Essex - before they get on some sort of run like they did last year - this could be it. You always look for the Roses matches too and they come a little later in 2018. These are all fixtures the players get excited about.”

Following home openers against Essex and Nottinghamshire, Gale’s side face a tricky 17-day period on the road, visiting Taunton, Chelmsford and the Kia Oval before a break in Championship action that is just short of six weeks.

Yorkshire’s games at Scarborough are against Surrey and Worcestershire, on Monday June 25 and Sunday August 19 respectively.

“We love going to Scarborough and we’ve got some wrongs to put right,” Gale continued. “It’s been a massive success for us in the last five years and we’ve had a tremendous record there, but last year we lost both games so it’s something we want to put right. We want to go there and play the brand of cricket that we like to play and put on a good show on.”

Yorkshire's away trip to Hampshire in late June will be one of nine competition-wide day-night fixtures in 2018, but on this occasion they will be spread over four rounds and played with a pink ball.

The Tykes kick off the Royal London One-Day Cup by heading north to Durham on May 18, with three home matches against Warwickshire (Sunday 20), Worcestershire (Wednesday 23) and Nottinghamshire (Friday 25) - the competition’s defending champions - in a period that will see the Vikings compete six times in 12 days.

Having recorded a 14 per cent increase in attendances and its first circa 10,000 crowd outside of the Roses fixture, Yorkshire will begin their quest to reach Finals Day when they take on rivals Durham Jets on Thursday July 5 in the T20 Blast.

The eagerly-awaited, much-anticipated home Roses clash is scheduled for Thursday August 9 and, with a reduced capacity due to ongoing redevelopment, demand is set to be greater than ever.

Gale added: “I believe we played the best T20 cricket we’ve ever played last year. Our away form cost us qualification and it was so frustrating to see finals day, because I felt that had we got through the qualifying stages and got to the knockout stages, we could have won the competition.

“We were full of confidence, broke lots of records and we know the small areas we need to work on to get to the knockout stages this season. We are excited about that block of fixtures and we’ll put a lot of hard work in during the winter.”

Yorkshire’s seventh and final home T20 will be against defending champions Nottinghamshire Outlaws (August 17), while the curtain will come down on the 2018 Championship season at New Road (September 24) against newly-promoted Worcestershire.