ALASTAIR COOK is predicting it will be a case of home sweet home for Adam Lyth as the Yorkshire batsman seeks to ignite his international career in the Headingley Test.
England captain Cook is backing Lyth to bounce back from two low scores on debut in the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s, where he made seven and 12.
It was a rude awakening to life at the highest level, but Cook believes his opening partner can thrive in familiar surroundings when the second Test begins today.
Asked whether he felt Lyth could produce a breakthrough performance on home soil, Cook said: “Absolutely I do.
“He’s a fantastic fighter. He got a very good ball in the first innings (at Lord’s), and a pretty good ball in the second innings too.
“But that can happen against world-class bowlers.
“A Lord’s debut is a big occasion, so back home will probably feel a bit more familiar. Also, it’s one Test match into his career.
“It would not surprise me if he bags that big score.”
Lyth, 27, was undone by a fine delivery from Tim Southee in the first innings at Lord’s, which he edged to wicketkeeper BJ Watling.
The left-hander was caught in the slips by Southee off Trent Boult in the second innings, but Lyth did not look out of his depth.
“He’s fitted in really well,” said Cook. “He loves being around the environment, and he keeps telling everyone how good a football player he is in the football games we play in the morning.
“I’ve yet to see that, but he’s a great lad.”
Lyth, who had trials with Manchester City as a youngster, has had little cricket of late, having been deemed surplus to requirements on the West Indies tour.
It cannot have helped his rhythm; the Lord’s Test was only his second first-class appearance since Yorkshire’s Champion County game against MCC in Abu Dhabi in March.
He is one of four Yorkshire players in the England squad this week, along with vice-captain Joe Root and batsman Gary Ballance (himself hoping for some home comforts after scores of 1 and 0 at Lord’s), plus pace bowler Liam Plunkett.
Plunkett was added to the squad amid fitness concerns over James Anderson and Mark Wood, both of whom are expected to play.
England will be aiming to clinch the two-match series on the back of their 124-run victory at Lord’s. That result – and, specifically, the manner of it – has led to a surge of interest in the game at Leeds, with fewer than 1,000 tickets available for each of the first two days.
“It was a fantastic week at Lord’s,” said Cook. “Both sides played really well, and it was a really good Test match to watch.
“We always get great support when we come up here to Headingley, and it’s great fun watching them on the Western Terrace with their (beer) snakes and stuff, and we’re very lucky with how we’re supported. I’m glad there’s been a rush for tickets.”
The game promises to be historic for Cook, who needs just 32 to become England’s highest run-scorer in Tests. It would take him above his mentor, Graham Gooch, who hit 8,900.
The pair have worked together since Cook was a youngster, and although there was a brief parting of the ways last year when Gooch lost his job as England batting coach, Cook turned back to him last winter to address an alarming loss of form.
The results speak for themselves, with Cook having hit centuries in each of his last two Tests.
“I wouldn’t put myself anywhere near his class or anything like that, but it would be a great moment,” said Cook as he contemplated the prospect of passing Gooch.
“It would be nice if I did pass the great man, but that won’t be enough for the game because you want big hundreds and big scores.
“Obviously, in the game situation, it’s important that if I am 30-odd not out, I try and go on and get a big score. That’s the most important thing.”
Cook said he owed a great deal to Gooch.
“I wouldn’t be here, or anywhere near, without Goochie’s help, so it would be slightly strange if I do go past his record,” he added.
“Without his hard work and his dedication to me and my game, I wouldn’t have scored half the runs I have.
“It’s a bit of a strange one really. There will only ever be one Graham Gooch, that’s for certain, and he’s England’s best-ever bat.”
Another with an eye on history is Anderson, who needs one more wicket for 400 in Tests. The Lancashire pace bowler would be the 12th man to achieve the feat.