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Yorkshire start afresh under Ballance and Gale

Finding a balance: Gary Ballance will have two ambitions in 2017 - an England recall and captaining Yorkshire to silverware Getty Images

Last season:
Championship: 3rd Div 1; NatWest Blast: SF; Royal London Cup: SF In: Azeem Rafiq
Out: Andrew Gale
Overseas: Peter Handscomb (Aus), Travis Head (Aus, T20)

2016 in a nutshell
For much of the season, Yorkshire were in contention not just for a third successive Championship, but also a coveted treble in all three formats. Instead, they ended up with nothing. As well as their defeat to Middlesex on the last day of the season with the Championship at stake, they lost in the semi-finals on NatWest Blast finals day when only Adam Lyth made much of a fist of a target of 157 and went out at the same stage in the Royal London Cup as Steve Davies' hundred spearheaded Surrey's victory. In the Championship, Lyth and Alex Lees were strong up top, but the middle-order failed repeatedly. Jack Brooks' 60 wickets was a tally unmatched by Division One pace bowlers and Ryan Sidebottom strove as valiantly as ever, while Tim Bresnan had a redoubtable summer with bat and ball, all concluded with his unavailing 142 against Middlesex at Lord's, to underline his popularity within the county.

2017 prospects
Yorkshire should challenge strongly again in all competitions, but they do have vulnerabilities. They have immediately been exposed in the Championship by Brooks' absence from the first month because of a calf injury. That puts the onus elsewhere. Sidebottom will want a final hurrah in his last season, but Liam Plunkett and David Willey had a joint tally of only 19 Championship wickets in 12 matches last season, and Willey, whose much-trumpeted arrival at Yorkshire has so far been a bit of a dud, is recovering from a shoulder operation. Matt Fisher has huge potential but hamstring and groin injuries demand he is used conservatively until his resilience is proven. England's withdrawal of Jonny Bairstow from early games (even though he was free to enter the IPL auction - work out the logic in that) will ask also questions of the middle order, although the prospect of Australian Peter Handscomb at No. 3, followed by Gary Ballance, means the pressing issues are at No 5. Travis Head will expect to make a bigger impact as he returns for the NatWest Blast.

In charge
Andrew Gale steps up from captain to first-team coach as Yorkshire put faith in their own, a similar decision to that over the Pennines with Lancashire handing the coach's role to Glen Chapple. It will be intriguing to see how Gale's passionate and demanding leadership style translates, but his retirement was judiciously timed and, like Chapple, he has the advantage of being highly respected within the county. Ballance, Gale's choice as captain, still harbours hopes of an England return, but as long as he commits himself fully to the role it can prove to be a good decision. All overseen by the wise counsel of director of cricket Martyn Moxon, who may keep a closer eye on first-team affairs until the new team bed in.

Key player
Much will rest with Ballance as Yorkshire seek to rid themselves of last summer's disappointment. A prolific season with the bat would offset Yorkshire's middle-order issues in the Championship and, with a few injury concerns around, he will need to manage his pace-bowling resources shrewdly. Man-management skills will involve getting the best out of Lees, who he replaces as captain in the limited-overs formats after only one season, and Adil Rashid, whose eyes will be on Champions Trophy success and whose relationship with Gale had its ups and downs.

Bright young thing
Most eyes will be on Fisher, with good reason, but Matthew Waite's appetite for the fray, whether with bat and ball, created an excellent impression during two high-pressure limited-overs matches in 2016 - a quarter-final victory against Glamorgan in the NatWest Blast and in the Royal London Cup semi-final defeat against Surrey at Headingley. Such are the advantages, the Yorkshire dressing room will testify, of learning how to put his contact lenses in the right way round. Waite, a former Yorkshire Academy captain, is a combative seamer and lower-middle order batsman and should make further progress over 20 and 50 overs this summer.

ESPNcricinfo verdict
Yorkshire look bound for a top-three finish in the Championship, but a third title in four years will depend on finding a winning blend in a pace attack that is heavily stocked with over-30s. With a new £32m stand to fund - negotiations, although delicate, seem to be reaching fruition - they also need the sort of NatWest Blast season that pulls in big crowds for more than just the Roses match.

Bet365 odds: Specsavers Championship Div 1 11-5; NatWest Blast 9-1; Royal London Cup 13-2