ANDREW Gale is hoping three successive home games at Emerald Headingley to finish their Bob Willis Trophy North Group will provide Yorkshire with a significant advantage as they chase silverware.

This summer’s county four-day fixtures have been released by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

The White Rose county begin with successive away trips to face Durham (Saturday, August 1 at Emirates Riverside) and Nottinghamshire (August 8, Trent Bridge).

Coach Gale and co will then return to their Headingley base to face Derbyshire (August 15), Lancashire (August 22) and Leicestershire (September 6).

Since the start of 2012 - the summer after relegation from Division One - Yorkshire have only lost five County Championship matches at Headingley.

“It could definitely be an advantage as long as we start well in the first couple of games,” said Gale.

“You’d like to think that if you can get a decent start with the two away games, you can take that momentum into those home games.

“We’ve got a good record at Headingley.

“We always play some good cricket here, and we played some exceptional cricket here last year in particular.”

Former title-winning captain Gale is delighted by the prospect of any four-day competition this summer, following the frustration brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

He will oversee two-day friendlies against Lancashire and Durham - both live streamed online to members - at Emerald Headingley, the former starting today and the latter on Monday, before the competitive action kicks in.

He said: “Things have moved fast, incredibly fast actually, from April/May time, when we thought there’d be no cricket at all, to now.

“It’s great that there’s an air of excitement around because cricket’s back. Everyone’s really looking forward to it.

“I think the Bob Willis Trophy (schedule) looks great.

“There’s usually a lot of talk around scheduling of competitions, but no one’s really mentioned it.

“We could have probably played cricket every day for two months after what’s gone on and no one would have batted an eyelid.”

The fixtures for the Vitality Blast, beginning in late August, will be released at a later date.

For now, though, Gale and his players can put all their focus into topping the North Group.

The two best group winners from the North, South and Central will qualify for the five-day final, potentially at Lord’s at the end of September or start of October. The venue and dates are still to be confirmed.

The smart money would be on both Yorkshire and today’s friendly opponents Lancashire being the favourites to win the North Group, given the other four teams - Derbyshire, Durham, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire - are all Division Two counties.

“You’d probably say that’s the case, but Notts are a good side as well,” added Gale. “I’m sure they will be up there.

“It will just be interesting to see what happens.

“You need a bit of luck with injuries and stuff because the games will come thick and fast - four days on and three off.

“But us, Lancashire and Notts, the Test Match grounds with bigger squads, will probably be seen as the standout teams. That doesn’t guarantee anything, though.

“My message to the boys is, ‘There’s two trophies on offer and it’s realistic we can win them both. Let’s give it a real go’.

“What’s been a tough year for everybody could end with a real high.”

Today’s friendly will come too soon for batting duo Dawid Malan and Gary Ballance, who are on the mend following a calf injury and illness respectively. They will play against Durham from Monday.

South African fast bowler Duanne Olivier will also sit out this fixture, as he tries to get up to speed having only returned to training on Monday, having been through seven days of quarantine upon his return to the UK after spending lockdown at home.