But Yorkshire’s preparations for the Roses match have been dealt a blow, with Malan ruled out through “personal reasons”.
The official line is necessarily ambiguous but Malan is healthy and the expectation is that he will instead make his first appearance of the season against Sussex at Emerald Headingley tomorrow week.
His place at Old Trafford tomorrow will be taken by George Hill, the promising 20-year-old all-rounder, with Root unavailable due to preparations for next week’s opening Test against New Zealand at Lord’s.
Harry Duke, the 19-year-old who made his first-class debut in Yorkshire’s previous County Championship game against Glamorgan in Cardiff, retains his place as wicketkeeper having impressed with his glovework and general attitude.
Jonny Tattersall, the man he replaced, has joined the Group Two leaders Gloucestershire on a one-match loan for tomorrow’s trip to face Surrey at The Oval; Gloucestershire are without their regular wicketkeeper/batsman James Bracey following his call-up to the Test squad.
Among those impressed with Duke’s display in Cardiff was Martyn Moxon, Yorkshire’s director of cricket, who said: “Although Harry didn’t get any runs (he was out first ball in his solitary innings), we all saw his quality as a keeper and his enthusiasm.
“All the attributes that he brings to a team were there to see, and he’s definitely one for the future.”
Malan, 33, will be an obvious miss in Manchester, having made an excellent start to his Yorkshire career.
He was the club’s leading run-scorer in the Bob Willis Trophy last summer with 332 from three appearances and he had the best average of 66.4.
As impressive as the numbers – albeit from an unavoidably short sample size – was the manner of their accrual, the left-hander exhibiting signs of genuine quality in the first-class game to complement his standing as the world’s No 1-ranked T20 batsman.
That standing only made it more surprising – not to say shortsighted – that Malan was only picked once by Punjab Kings in the Indian Premier League tournament which had hitherto deprived Yorkshire of his services this season, a consequently largely needless inconvenience.
Malan clearly has the credentials to assist Yorkshire with their most pressing concern – that of accumulating big first innings totals, with Yorkshire possessing the lowest number of batting points in Group Three (nine) and the third-lowest in the country behind Group A’s Warwickshire (seven) and Derbyshire (eight).
For all that their batting has yet to fire collectively, with rookie Hill hoping to make an impression this week after some impressive performances at second team level, including a double century against Gloucestershire in Bristol, the only points total that matters – the end column – is contrastingly encouraging.
Yorkshire head to Old Trafford on 98 points after three wins and three draws, three points behind opponents who possess the only other unbeaten record in the group. Yorkshire were also buoyed by the fact that rain denied Lancashire and fourth-placed Northants the chance to maximise their game in hand on them last week when their meeting at Wantage Road consisted of just 34.3 overs and no bonus points.
“From our point of view, for them to only get eight points each from that match for the draw was the perfect scenario really,” said Moxon. “The good old British summer, eh?”
Quite, and with Yorkshire having an 18-point cushion to Glamorgan in third, who have played one game more in the 10-match group stage, the Roses rivals look good bets to remain in the top-two positions and thereby advance into Division One later in the season, giving them a crack at the Championship title and the Bob Willis Trophy.
This week’s contest – followed by the return Roses fixture at Scarborough in July – has potentially extra significance because, should Yorkshire and Lancashire indeed progress into Division One, they would carry forward half the points that they collect from those games.
For although six teams advance from each of the three groups, sides play only four matches each when the tournament splits into three new divisions, avoiding their opponents from the group stage.
So if Yorkshire beat Lancashire twice by 24 points to five, say, giving a total of 48 points to 10, and both teams progress into Division One, Yorkshire would carry forward half their points (24) and Lancashire half theirs (five). Confusing? Not ’arf...
“These two games against Lancashire are no different to any others in that you want to get as many points as you can,” said Moxon.
“But if it does turn out that ourselves and Lancashire do finish in the top-two of this group, then these games are clearly doubly important.”
Yorkshire’s squad for Old Trafford: Lyth, Kohler-Cadmore, Ballance, Brook, Hill, Bess, Thompson, Duke, Willey, Patterson (captain), Coad, Olivier, Shutt.
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