Chris Waters – An opening dilemma Yorkshire are failing to solve

Adam Lyth and Will Fraine open the batting for Yokshire against Essex last week.
Adam Lyth and Will Fraine open the batting for Yokshire against Essex last week.
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THE list of great Yorkshire opening batsmen is longer than Pinocchio’s nose when he’s just told a lie.

Percy Holmes, Herbert Sutcliffe, Len Hutton, Geoffrey Boycott, Martyn Moxon – just some of those whose names and achievements echo down the years.

Scoreboard says it all: Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe  after their 555-run first-wicket stand v Essex at Leyton in 1932.

Scoreboard says it all: Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe after their 555-run first-wicket stand v Essex at Leyton in 1932.

But just as the legendary line of Yorkshire left-arm spinners is now a thing of the past, so the club has struggled for consistency from its opening batsmen for many moons now.

So much so that the 77 runs added by Adam Lyth and Will Fraine in the first innings of this week’s County Championship match against Essex at Emerald Headingley was the first time that a Yorkshire first-wicket pair had shared a 50 stand in 28 innings in first-class cricket dating back to May 4 last year, when only a quickfire half-century from the promoted England star Jonny Bairstow inspired another 77 partnership in a corresponding fixture at Chelmsford.

As if that was not bad enough, of the 27 first-wicket partnerships in the intervening 13-month period, just two were above 40 and 11 in single figures.

Lyth featured in all 27, his partners being Harry Brook (14 times), Jeet Raval (seven times) and Alex Lees (six times), with the last two players no longer at the club.

Brook was dropped for the Essex game after scoring 122 runs in eight first-class innings this season at an average of 15.25, with a highest score of 30.

It is a maddening, some would say mystifying, return for a youngster with considerable potential; Brook made a brilliant maiden hundred in that aforementioned contest at Chelmsford, for example.

Brook will come again at the age of 20, but the twenty-two-year-old Fraine, who contributed 39 to the 77-run stand with Lyth on his Yorkshire first-class debut, looks the part also and will presumably now get a run in the side – despite falling for a duck in the second innings against Essex when the opening partnership yielded one run.

One particularly liked the unflustered way that Fraine went about his work in that first innings, his willingness to watch the ball right on to his bat and to run singles hard, interspersed with the odd neat flick off his pads to the boundary.

It was promising, yes, but, as Fraine will not need telling, it isn’t 39s that Yorkshire need going forward but something more akin to 139s, with just Gary Ballance (four) and Joe Root (one) having scored hundreds for the club in the opening five games in this year’s Championship.

Adam Lyth (95) and Tom Kohler-Cadmore (83) missed good chances to join them against Essex, although no blame could be attached to Dom Bess (91 not out) when he was left stranded in the Yorkshire first innings.

Both Lyth and Kohler-Cadmore have looked good this year without getting the big scores to prove it, the sort which are not only match-winning but which will also attract the attention of the England selectors, with Lyth hoping to get back into the side and Kohler-Cadmore to break into it for the first time.

It is a cross that all batsmen must bear, of course, that no-one remembers 80s and 90s; it is centuries that count, as a certain G Boycott would tell you.

Although Lyth is as good as anyone in the Yorkshire XI on his day, and one of the most stylish batsmen in the country, he will be as conscious as anyone that Yorkshire need better starts from the first-wicket pair.

To find the last time that a Yorkshire first-wicket duo shared a hundred partnership in first-class cricket you have to go all the way back to September, 2017, when Kohler-Cadmore and Shaun Marsh added 162 against Surrey at The Oval.

It is, quite obviously, a sobering statistic.

It was not so many years ago, in fact, that an even more remarkable statistic occurred.

One forgets the dates off the top of one’s head, but there was a time when Yorkshire’s 10th-wicket stand one year was averaging more than the first.

That it would never have happened in the days of Holmes, Sutcliffe, Hutton, Boycott, Moxon et al almost goes without saying.