ADAM LYTH last night revealed his shock at being called up for England’s Test tour to the West Indies and vowed to grab his opportunity with both hands.
The opener is one of six Yorkshire players in the 16-man squad along with fellow batsmen Joe Root, Gary Ballance and Jonny Bairstow, plus bowlers Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid.
Lyth has been chosen for his first senior tour on the back of a brilliant 2014, when he was leading run-scorer in Division One of the County Championship with 1,489 at 67.68 to help Yorkshire to the title.
Although the 27-year-old knew he was firmly in the frame, having been selected for the recent Lions trip to South Africa, he admitted that the all-important call from national selector James Whitaker still came as a surprise.
Speaking from the United Arab Emirates, where Yorkshire are preparing for next week’s Champion County game against MCC, Lyth said: “I was at Richard Pyrah’s benefit function in Dubai (on Tuesday) when I received the call from James Whitaker.
“I was hoping for it and when it came I was shocked; it still hasn’t sunk in. I am very excited and I can’t wait to join the England lads next month. I have made many sacrifices to get to this position and I hope that I can now become a Test player in the Caribbean.”
Having gained selection ahead of Sam Robson, who was Alastair Cook’s opening partner last summer, Lyth now appears to face a direct shoot-out with Jonathan Trott to partner Cook in the West Indies.
Trott – chosen for the first time since returning from the 2013-14 Ashes with a stress-related illness – performed strongly for the Lions in South Africa, where he emerged as a contender to open with Cook after Ballance successfully filled last summer the No 3 role that Trott had vacated.
Prior to the first Test in Antigua on April 13, England play a brace of two-day warm-up games in St Kitts in which Lyth and Trott could go head-to-head.
Whatever happens, Lyth insists he is ready for the challenge as England look to get back on track after the World Cup in the three-match series.
“The next step is to impress the captain and coach and hopefully get selected for that first Test,” he said. “If that happens, it would rank as my biggest achievement in cricket. I had a positive England Lions tour, where I felt I batted well against strong opposition. I just need to be given the opportunity to do it on the Test stage and hopefully that will start in the West Indies.”
Lyth is one of three uncapped players in the squad along with Rashid, who has previously played 10 times for England in limited-overs cricket, and the Durham pace bowler Mark Wood.
With Moeen Ali omitted due to a side strain, Rashid will compete for a place with off-spinner James Tredwell, while Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes returns in the absence of the injured Chris Woakes (foot).
Bairstow is back in the mix having made the last of his 14 Test appearances on the 2013-14 Ashes tour, and Plunkett returns after missing the second half of last season with a foot injury.
Lyth believes it is testament to Yorkshire’s coaching structure and Academy system that they have six representatives on tour - and he is delighted, on a personal level, for his family back home.
“My family are made up,” he said. “I spoke to my wife Lillian over the phone and she was very emotional. She knows, along with my mum and dad, how much this means to me. I have to thank them for everything they have done for me and I wouldn’t be where I am if it wasn’t for them.”
Lyth is optimistic Yorkshire can cope without him and his England team-mates at the start of the summer as they seek to retain the Championship title.
The tour clashes with the opening three Championship games away to Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire and at home to Warwickshire.
“This is Yorkshire and we love a challenge,” said Lyth. “We have some solid players coming through who will be given their chance to excel.
“The club will be able to cope with it and someone could really step up to the plate and cement their place in the side. It is all about taking your opportunity, and with the right desire and application there will be a young player who will relish the responsibility.”
Mark Arthur, the Yorkshire chief executive, paid tribute to the White Rose six, saying: “We’re absolutely delighted for them; it’s the greatest honour to represent your country. It will be a challenge for Yorkshire in our quest to retain the County Championship, but we know we’ve got a lot of talent coming through, and it will give that talent chance to impress.”
Full England squad: Alastair Cook (capt, Essex), Adam Lyth (Yorkshire), Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire), Gary Ballance, Joe Root (both Yorkshire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Jos Buttler (wk, Lancashire), Jonathan Bairstow (wk), Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett (all Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), James Anderson (Lancashire), Chris Jordan (Sussex), Mark Wood (Durham), James Tredwell (Kent).