County previews April 8, 2013

Yorks hope to click again

The bowling has been strengthened but England call-ups could hurt Yorkshire as they look to build on an impressive 2012

Last year: 2nd (promoted), CC Div 2; Finalists, T20; 5th, CB40 Group C

2012 in a nutshell: The only side in either division to finish unbeaten in the Championship, Yorkshire won promotion back to Division One, reached the final of the FLt20 and saw another of their young players - Joe Root - progress into the England squad. It was not as straightforward as it sounds, though, with Yorkshire requiring a late run - they won their last three games - to break into the top two. Between May 12, when they completed the second largest run-chase in their history (400) to beat Gloucestershire, and August 31 they didn't win a game. Steve Patterson, not fast but tall and disciplined, led the way with the ball, with Adam Lyth, Jonny Bairstow and Anthony McGrath contributing with the bat. Their T20 campaign was boosted by the signing of Mitchell Starc (21 wickets at 10.38) and David Miller, who averaged 48.75 with the bat. Gerard Brophy and Oliver Hannon-Dalby were released at the end of the season; Ajmal Shahzad during it amid accusations that he was not committed to the team cause.

2013 prospects: Having failed to persuade James Harris to join them, Yorkshire underlined their desire to strengthen the bowling by signing Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks. Both have a great deal to prove: Brooks has only taken 19 List A wickets in his whole career and claimed only 23 Championship wickets at 35.69 last year, while Plunkett's form deserted him so completely that he played just one Championship match for Durham in 2012. The batting has been weakened, with Anthony McGrath's retirement through injury and the possible absence of Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root, in particular, due to England commitments. The availability of Tim Bresnan remains unclear, too: if he is fully fit, Yorkshire may well lose him, but if he is unable to make a full recovery after his second elbow operation, they may see far more of him. In Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance and Phil Jaques they have some fine batsmen, but they will require more from Andrew Gale, Adil Rashid and Andrew Hodd if they are to survive at the higher level. The bowling still seems to lack a bit of pace, too, despite the two new signings.

Key player: Given only a slight twist of fate, it may have been Lyth, not Joe Root representing England this winter. Lyth, a naturally positive opener, can often appear the more eye-catching player but lost form horribly in 2011. He was back somewhere near his best in 2012 and, in averaging 53.64, ensured several good starts. Yorkshire will require similar success from his this year.

Bright young thing: Azeem Rafiq has the skill and the temperament to flourish. An aggressive offspinner, he can also bat and appears to thrive in the pressure situations that often separate the wheat from the chaff. Only 22, he has already captained the club and could be the sort of cricketer the side is built around for the next 10 years.

Captain/coach: Gale has impressed as captain, though he could do with contributing more with the bat after only passing 50 twice in the Championship last year. Jason Gillespie is quickly gaining a good reputation as head coach, while Martyn Moxon remains as director of cricket.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: There is just a hint of desperation about the new signings and a concern that the absences in the batting order could weaken them severely. Avoiding relegation should be considered a successful season.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo