Yorkshire are many people’s favourites to win the LV= County Championship title this summer.
Last season’s second-placed finish, which saw them play some exceptional cricket and only slip up twice against Sussex and champions Durham, has raised expectations they can go one better and win their first four-day crown since 2001.
They were not the bookmakers’ favourites before last weekend’s opening round of fixtures. Warwickshire, champions in 2012, had that honour. But Yorkshire certainly have the firepower with both ball and bat to be Division One top dogs.
There is also confidence that they can challenge for limited-overs silverware, despite some nightmare performances last year.
The exciting capture of powerful Australian batsman Aaron Finch will certainly boost their Twenty20 chances and we can expect them to field much stronger teams in one-day cricket.
The county’s Championship bowling attack has firepower, variation and international pedigree, while their batting – boosted by the overseas capture of Kane Williamson for the majority of the campaign – is equally strong.
There is a chance that Jonny Bairstow, currently recovering from a broken finger, could be overlooked by England this summer, while there are other question marks over how much Test cricket Tim Bresnan will play as the national side look to rebuild following a disastrous winter series.
When Bresnan returns to Yorkshire colours after a rest, there will be a tricky decision for coach Jason Gillespie as to who to leave out.
Alex Lees and Adam Lyth will start the season at the top of the batting order but it looks likely that one of them will make way when Joe Root returns to action from a broken thumb at the end of the month.
We all know just how dangerous Finch can be in the Twenty20 format and one-day cricket but it will be fascinating to see how he copes in the championship when Williamson is away in the West Indies with New Zealand between late May and early July.
The Aussie’s first-class average is only 27.47 from 39 matches. He is due to arrive once his Indian Premier League commitments finish in early June at the latest.
Yorkshire only lost two four-day matches last year, compared to Durham’s four, but the north-east county’s haul of ten wins was three more than Gillespie’s men.
One of the most exciting aspects of the summer will be the return of Roses championship cricket to the schedule for the first time since 2011.
If Finch’s Indian Premier League franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad reach the final of that competition, he is likely to debut in the NatWest T20 Blast clash with the Lightning at Emirates Old Trafford on June 6.
The prospect of a match-up between Finch and England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler is a mouthwatering one. All in all, it promises to be another intriguing summer.