Chris Waters: Tricky decisions may lie ahead as Yorkshire target opening boost

Yorkshire's Adam Lyth (near) and Alex Lees have struggled in recnt months. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
Yorkshire's Adam Lyth (near) and Alex Lees have struggled in recnt months. Picture: Alex Whitehead/SWpix.com
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While the foundations of a good house are down at the bottom, those of a good batting order are up at the top.

Yorkshire’s foundations have been creaking of late, and a little stability is sorely required.

Yorkshire's Tom Kohler-Cadmore could be promoted to open the batting. Picture: Simon Cooper/PA

Yorkshire's Tom Kohler-Cadmore could be promoted to open the batting. Picture: Simon Cooper/PA

In 2014, those foundations were rock-solid thanks to opening batsmen Adam Lyth and Alex Lees.

The pair formed a devastating partnership as Yorkshire won their first County Championship for 13 years.

Since then, Yorkshire have struggled for runs from their opening pair, who have not hit the heights that they managed that year.

Collectively, the top-order batting has been a source of concern, a fact readily acknowledged by the coaching staff, with the team often finding themselves 40-3 or in some such state.

Yorkshire will hardly be oblivious to the matters raised, and they may soon have to face some tricky decisions.

Chris Waters

Although the problem goes much deeper than the opening stand, with several players having struggled for runs, that opening stand formed a key part of Yorkshire’s success in 2014.

Everything flowed from it, and Lees and Lyth’s average stand in the Championship that summer was 72.23.

The duo registered 10 partnerships of 50-plus in 22 innings, including four century stands.

Their best effort was 375 against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road, the fourth-highest partnership in the club’s history, while they also shared 270 against Durham in the match at Headingley.

In 2015, however, Lyth and Lees did not play together nearly as often. They batted only 12 times in tandem in the Championship as Lyth was called up by England for the Tests against Australia and New Zealand.

Lyth and Lees’s average stand that year was 19.58, and their highest partnership was 46.

And just as Lyth struggled on the Test stage, scoring 265 runs in seven matches at 20.38, so Lees found it difficult to back up his 2014, his average dropping from 44.13 to 33.12.

Last year, both batsmen hit back strongly, each scoring more than 1,000 Championship runs, but they did not always fire together. Twenty-five of their 30 stands in the tournament realised less than 50, although four century stands and one of 72 saw them come out with a combined partnership of 40.96.

This year, the pair have also struggled to hit it off in tandem.

In 16 Championship innings, their average alliance is 23.33, with a highest of 61 to complete a ten-wicket victory over Lancashire. Clearly, Lyth and Lees are quality players with proven track records.

Lyth averages 39.59 in first-class cricket, and Lees 37.24; in other words, these chaps can play.

But Yorkshire will hardly be oblivious to the matters raised, and they may soon have to face some tricky decisions.

Even the best batting partnerships struggle at times, and the club may conclude that a change is needed.

Yorkshire certainly have options and the scope for alteration.

One option would be to promote 18-year-old Harry Brook, who has opened the batting and who has made a good impression in his fledgling first-class career.

However, Brook is unavailable for the next Championship match, against Essex at Scarborough, as he is leading England Under-19s in their five-match one-day series against India.

Other options might be to draft in Jonathan Tattersall, or to promote new signing Tom Kohler-Cadmore or wicket-keeper Andrew Hodd.

Ideally, however, Yorkshire would want to keep faith with Lyth and Lees, hoping that these two fine players once more click as a formidable pairing.