Gale is blown away by Tykes' whirlwind start

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The Independent Online

As at Lord's, there is an honours board in the Yorkshire dressing room at Headingley, on which every batsman who scores a century and bowler who takes five wickets has their name written. Or rather, as captain Andrew Gale says with a smile, it's not like Lord's at all.

"It's one of those white boards the physio scribbles on with a marker pen. And we include century partnerships as well. But to the lads here it means a lot to see their name on there."

Plenty have achieved that ambition. Of the eight games played before yesterday's one-day match against the Netherlands, Yorkshire won six, including three out of five in the Championship, and drew two. Five hundreds have been scored, three bowlers have taken five-fors and the list of century partnerships is a long one. Not bad for a team who were fancied to be relegated.

Gale – at 26, the youngest captain since Brian Sellers in 1933 – and Yorkshire have been a revelation. Jacques Rudolph is past 500 championship runs; Gale, Anthony McGrath and Adam Lyth are closing in on 400; Joe Sayers has scored four 50s; and Adil Rashid and Johnny Bairstow average over 40.

In terms of wickets, five bowlers are in double figures. While that might have been expected of Rashid, Tim Bresnan and Ajmal Shahzad, Steven Patterson and Oliver Hannon-Dalby are hardly household names. But while Gale acknowledges he did not expect things to come together quite so fast, the Dewsbury left-hander says the potential is obvious.

"We've been playing together for a few years, and knowing the abilities of each player was one of the reasons I didn't have to think long about taking the job," Gale said. "Having said that, as a traditionalist I'd have grabbed the opportunity whatever the circumstances. It maybe came a year or two earlier than I'd have liked but as soon as I started putting some plans in place I got excited."

Those in the Broad Acres who questioned the wisdom of giving the captaincy to a batsman who averaged under 37 in the championship last season, have been confounded. As well as being by Yorkshire standards almost startlingly proactive in the field, Gale has flourished with the bat, scoring centuries against Somerset and Essex.

"Put simply, he's a natural leader," said the Yorkshire Post cricket correspondent, Chris Waters. "Time and again he has made a bowling change that has paid immediate dividends and the captaincy has also brought the best out of him with the bat."

Yorkshire supporters who are accustomed to caution have relished the new captain's readiness to risk losing to give his side a chance of winning, although Gale shrugs off suggestions that he has the priceless instinct of knowing who to bowl when.

"I can't really take the credit for the bowlers being able to ask batsmen the right questions in their first overs. They make the ball talk, not me. But we have tried to make things happen. To win trophies you sometimes need to go with a hunch, a gut feeling, and back your players in certain situations. I want the players to know I believe in them, because we have got the quality in the squad to achieve the unexpected. I'm certain everyone can make a match-winning contribution, whatever position we're in.

"And captaincy has given me quite a lot of focus in my batting – I'm not just thinking about my own performances, I'm thinking about getting the team into a winning position."

Gale acknowledges the benefit of regular consultations with a former team-mate, Michael Vaughan, whom the director of cricket, Martyn Moxon, was keen to keep involved with the county. "We speak regularly and he's a brilliant sounding board because he's always relaxed and positive," said Gale. "That's the most effective way to captain a side – shouting and bawling does not get the best out of players."

In that respect, Gale is already being likened to Vaughan. Moxon points out that Gale impressed the England selectors when he captained the Lions in Dubai earlier this year.

"Over the past few years I've seen Andrew mature as a player and a leader and he was the right man to lead the side," said Moxon.

"Whether he is a future England captain, well, first he has to prove he's good enough to play as a batsman. If he can do that – and he's more than capable – I'd say he has a really good chance."

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