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 at either end of the campaign, has raised expectations that 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, runners-up in 2011 and champions in 2012, had that honour.
But Yorkshire certainly have the firepower with both ball and bat to be top dogs.
There is also confidence that Yorkshire can challenge for limited overs silverware after their nightmare performances last year.
Fast bowler Steve Patterson believes the change from 40 to 50-over cricket will suit the Vikings, while the exciting capture of powerful Australian batsman Aaron Finch should boost their Twenty20 chances.
“The kind of cricket we play, we play some quite traditional cricket in a lot of ways, and I think that extra ten overs, although to some people it might not be a lot, it will be a massive difference for us,” explained Patterson.
“I’d like to think we’ll do a heck of a lot better this season than we did last.
“We’ve got players who I’d call genuine batsmen, ones who play proper cricket shots like Alex Lees, Adam Lyth and Kane Williamson for example. That extra ten overs just gives you that little bit longer to build an innings and get set.”
Despite Yorkshire’s history of success in Championship cricket, which the members believe is the most important competition for them to win, there was a fair bit of anger at their limited overs performances last summer.
We can expect Jason Gillespie, Martyn Moxon and Andrew Gale to field much stronger teams in one-day cricket. In Twenty20, they started off 2013 with good intentions, but it went downhill rapidly.
Yorkshire’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 Jonny Bairstow could be overlooked by England this summer, while there are other question marks over how much Test cricket Tim Bresnan will play as England look to rebuild following a disastrous winter series.
Bresnan will not start the county campaign at Taunton on Sunday as he rests up from a busy winter.
When Bresnan does return to Yorkshire colours, there will be one heck of a tricky decision for coach 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 Twenty20 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.
His first-class average is only 27.47 from 39 matches for Victoria and Australia A. He is due to arrive once his Indian Premier League commitments finish in early June at the latest.
Yorkshire only lost two matches last year compared to Durham’s four. But the North East county’s haul of ten wins was three more than the White Rose.
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, with both counties having spent time in Division Two since then.
Yorkshire may have lost both clashes that summer, but they were both classics and will live long in the memory. In fact, both counties meet in every competition this year.
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.
It promises to be another intriguing summer.