County Championship: Yorkshire go back in time to fill hole left by Rashid

James Middlebrook, pictured during his previous spell with Yorkshire.
James Middlebrook, pictured during his previous spell with Yorkshire.
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YORKSHIRE have reacted to England’s decision to turn down their request to release Adil Rashid from the West Indies tour by signing 37-year-old off-spinner James Middlebrook.

The county have turned to the Leeds-born player, who began his career at Headingley before going on to represent Essex and Northamptonshire.

Yorkshire had asked England to send Rashid home as he did not play in the first two Tests and is thought unlikely to feature in the final game in Barbados.

Middlebrook – released by Northamptonshire last summer and currently playing for New Farnley in the Bradford League –is set to play in tomorrow’s County Championship game against Warwickshire at Headingley in what could be his solitary appearance.

Yorkshire have signed him on a short-term deal in preference to playing Karl Carver, the 19-year-old left-arm spinner who appeared in the opening Championship game against Worcestershire.

Carver took 0-36 from six overs at New Road and was left out of last week’s match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, where the club fielded 17-year-old pace bowler Matthew Fisher.

Yorkshire entrusted spin bowling duties in Nottingham to batsman Jack Leaning, who returned match figures of 1-110 in a game in which he scored his maiden first-class century.

Although Yorkshire were bold enough to try Carver in the first place, having handed him his Championship debut against tomorrow’s opponents at Edgbaston last June, they have concluded that the current situation asks too much of him and he will return to second-team duty.

Middlebrook, who played 23 first-class games for Yorkshire between 1998 and 2001, admitted he was surprised to get the call to stand in for Rashid, who will be available – England whims permitting – for the following Championship game against Hampshire at Headingley from May 10.

“It has been surreal,” said Middlebrook. “I wasn’t expecting a call to come and play first-class cricket again, and to get the call from Yorkshire was a shock.

“I’m excited and looking forward to my second debut with the club, and it will be a big honour to walk out in front of the Yorkshire members on Sunday.

“Yorkshire are a talented side with some great players, and I’ll do my job and hopefully help the lads get a win against Warwickshire.”

Jason Gillespie, the Yorkshire first-team coach, is delighted to have Middlebrook available for the club’s final game before they welcome back most of their Caribbean contingent.

Assuming that he does play – and there would seem no point in signing him to be 12th man – Middlebrook is likely to come into the side in place of Fisher or all-rounder Rich Pyrah.

Middlebrook gives Yorkshire another middle-order batting option in much the same way that Rashid does, and he has 10 first-class centuries to his name to go with 458 wickets.

He averages 28 with the bat and 38 with the ball from 220 first-class appearances, the last of them for Northamptonshire against Sussex at Northampton last September.

“With our first-choice spinner Adil Rashid in the Caribbean with England, we felt we had to look at an option to fill that void,” said Gillespie.

“Karl Carver has been in our squad this season and we have been pleased with his development over the past 12 months. However, at this point in time, we feel he is best served learning his trade in the second team.

“James Middlebrook was available, having been released by Northamptonshire last season.

“The fact that he is based in Leeds playing local league cricket in the Bradford League, we felt that with his experience that he could come in and do a job for us in the short term.

“He is an experienced campaigner and knows the county system inside out. I expect him to do well for us and add to our squad in the short term.

“James will play for his club, New Farnley, on Saturday and will more than likely make his debut for us on Sunday.”

With six Yorkshire players in the West Indies and pace bowler Ryan Sidebottom injured, the club are still significantly depleted.

Cheteshwar Pujara, the India batsman, is fit again after missing the second half of the Nottinghamshire game with a hand injury, and Yorkshire have reason to be pleased with a win and a draw from their first two matches.

“We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t get over the line against Notts, but we were the only side with realistic hopes of winning that game going into day four,” said Gillespie.

“After day one, when Notts had 393 on the board and one of their lads had scored a double, to fight back like that was a massive effort by our lads.

“Warwickshire are a very good side who’ve got all bases covered, and it’s going to be a massive challenge.

“You want to test yourself against quality sides, and Warwickshire very much fall into that category.”