ANDREW GALE believes Yorkshire’s back-to-back Championship title success in 2014 and 2015, added to a near miss the year after, will be a tough act for counties to repeat.

Surrey’s slow start to their title defence - two defeats and three draws from five games - has brought Yorkshire’s feat into focus, especially given the two counties are meeting each other at Guildford this week.

Today’s opening day was washed out due to rain at 1.20pm.

Gale - captain of Yorkshire in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and now coach - said: “Looking back, you realise how good an achievement that was to nearly win three in a row because, as we’ve seen in recent years, it’s hard work to back it up.

“Surrey are not having it all their own way, and Somerset have come out of the traps really strong.

“The cricket we played and the records we broke in that second year, you realise how much of an achievement it was. Whether that will be done again, I don’t know.

“Who knows, Surrey might go on an unbelievable run of form and win it again because they’re a very good side. But I think it will be incredibly hard for teams to back up and win it again.

“Things just fell into line for us, and we had a real presence about us.

“There were a lot of international players and some on the verge of international cricket. It was very special.

“To go close for a third year, missing out in the last session of the season (at Middlesex), was a phenomenal effort.”

Asked for his theory on why teams have often struggled the year after winning the title - recently, Lancashire went down in 2012 and Middlesex in 2017 - Gale continued: “I think you have to question when a team sets out to win a Championship, what’s the motivation the year after that gets you out of bed?

“Our motivation, in that second year, wasn’t just about winning the Championship. A lot of players, their motivation was to go up a level and play for England.

“And, as we know, cricket, especially the longer format, is a very individual game.

“We had the likes of Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Jonny Bairstow when he came back - their ambition was also to play for England, not just winning the title with Yorkshire.

“For me, to win one Championship was brilliant. But my motivation was to lift the trophy having not been allowed to lift it first time around.

“Ryan Sidebottom’s motivation was to try and get more Championships than anyone else had got.

“You have to rethink your goal because in life when you’ve reached the one you’ve been striving for all the time, you need a new one. Then you have to put the hard yards in.

“You can see with some teams that the standards just slip ever so slightly.

“I’m not saying that’s happened with Surrey, but those are the challenges you face.”

Yorkshire are unbeaten so far this season, with two wins and three draws.

“I’m proud of the way the lads have started,” added Gale.

“We are a developing team, and you can see that. Young lads have come in. We want to give our own lads a chance, and that takes time.

“We haven’t spoken about winning the Championship.

“This year is about playing consistent cricket for as long as possible and to compete with the best teams. And we’re doing that. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“We set ourselves the target of winning that first session last week and starting well. We did that. But we have to do it again and again to become the team we were in 2014 and 2015, and Surrey last year, and Essex the year before.”