Cricket: White prepared to kick-start Yorkshire's challenge

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The Independent Online
THE ATTENTION-CORNERING potential of a Lord's final is long established as a moment of opportunity for cricketers with high ambition, which is why Craig White will be especially keen to maintain his place in the spotlight as Yorkshire attempt finally to escape from the wilderness in the Benson and Hedges Super Cup tomorrow.

Yorkshire's re-emergence has been built around the fresh new talents generated by the county's highly successful academy but their proximity to a first trophy for 12 years owes something also to the renaissance being enjoyed by White.

His half-century earned him the man of the match award when Yorkshire's defeat of Warwickshire set up tomorrow's meeting with Gloucestershire and he was a key figure again in Wednesday's comprehensive defeat of Lancashire, which took his side within one match of another trip to headquarters in the NatWest Trophy.

Another match-winning performance tomorrow could bring him back into contention for an England recall, particularly as a one-day player. He has added neither to his eight Test caps nor his 15 one-day international appearances since England were in New Zealand in 1996-97, but has never given up on regaining his place.

"I am playing the best cricket of my career," he said. "I have never thought my England career was over and although the call may not come in Tests, when it comes to picking a one-day squad I would hope to be in there."

He will be given every chance to make an impact, too, given that Yorkshire are likely to repeat the tactic of sending in White as a pinch-hitter, a ploy which worked to scintillating effect against Lancashire, when his 43 off 39 balls not only launched Yorkshire's innings at a rattle but softened up the bowling nicely for the captain, David Byas, who dropped to No 3, and produced a superb 72.

White says the tactic emerged from a dressing-room meeting in the wake of Yorkshire's recent hiccups in the National League. "It was decided that it would be better for me to go in first because when I do hit the ball well it goes in areas which are impossible to defend in those first 15 overs," he said.

Yorkshire have not lifted a trophy since the 1987 Benson and Hedges Cup final, a match from which there are few survivors still on the Headingley staff. Wicketkeeper Richard Blakey is one; another, opening batsman Martyn Moxon, is now coach. In the intervening years, the pair have seen hopes built around their team on several occasions only to be frustrated.

But the win over Warwickshire ended a run of five successive semi-final defeats and Moxon believes that result, combined with the ending of their Old Trafford hoodoo may have enabled Yorkshire to overcome a psychological barrier.

"If a team keeps losing at the semi-final hurdle a lot of self-doubt creeps in," he said. "To break through that barrier helps the confidence no end.

"Now we have finally to a final, I feel that if we can go the whole way and win it there is no reason why we can't go on an win things for years to come."

Yorkshire are likely to make one change from Wednesday, bringing in 22- year-old left-arm seamer Paul Hutchison, who has been suffering from back problems, for only his second match of the season in place of left-arm spinner Ian Fisher.

Gloucestershire, seeking their first trophy since the Benson and Hedges Cup of 1977, have included Jon Lewis even though their leading wicket- taker missed their NatWest quarter-final against Glamorgan because of a broken hand. However, Mark Alleyne is unlikely to change a winning line- up.

YORKSHIRE (probable): C White, G S Blewett, D Byas (capt), M P Vaughan, A McGrath, R J Harden, G M Hamilton, R J Blakey (wkt), P M Hutchinson, R J Sidebottom, C E W Silverwood.

GLOUCESTERSHIRE (probable): K J Barnett, T H C Hancock, R J Cunliffe, I J Harvey, M W Alleyne (capt), M G N Windows, R C Russell (wkt), J N Snape, M C J Ball, A M Smith, M J Cawdron.