England blasted by Bird over quartet’s inactivity

DICKIE BIRD has launched a strong attack on England’s decision to take six Yorkshire players to the West Indies only to leave four of them out of the team for the first Test, saying they would be better off playing for their county and that the move could potentially cost Yorkshire the Championship.

Yorkshire's Jack Brooks bats during day two of the LV= County Championship match at New Road, Worcester. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday April 13, 2015. See PA story CRICKET Worcestershire. Photo credit should read: Simon Cooper/PA Wire. RESTRICTIONS: Editorial use only. No commercial use without prior written consent of the ECB. Still image use only - no moving images to emulate broadcast. No removing or obscuring of sponsor logos. Call +44 (0)1158 447447 for further information.

The Yorkshire president said he was furious that Liam Plunkett, Adam Lyth, Adil Rashid and Jonny Bairstow were all left on the sidelines after England chose only Yorkshire’s Joe Root and Gary Ballance for the opening Test in Antigua.

Bird said he had made his views known to James Whitaker, the national selector, who was present at Worcester yesterday, where Yorkshire are playing their opening match of the Championship season. The champions kept in touch on an even second day, closing on 298-9 in reply to Worcestershire’s first innings 311.

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In addition to the six players absent with England and the unavailability for this game of captain Andrew Gale, who completes a four-match ban after his verbal spat last summer with Lancashire’s Ashwell Prince, Yorkshire were dealt a further blow yesterday when Ryan Sidebottom, their leading bowler, suffered a calf injury while batting.

Sidebottom was forced to retire hurt after injuring himself while setting off for a single and although he later resumed his innings, he was described by Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie as “very, very unlikely to bowl” and will be reassessed today by the club’s medical staff.

It was matters in the Caribbean, however, that most concerned former umpire Bird, with England ignoring two-thirds of the Yorkshire contingent in the 16-man squad for the three-Test series. Yorkshire’s six England representatives are missing the opening three Championship matches, which continue with next week’s trip to Nottinghamshire and the opening home game against Warwickshire, and Bird fears their unavailability could scupper the club’s title bid.

“It could cost us the Championship in the long run,” he said. “To have six players missing would test the resources of any side.

“Of course, it’s good for the club that the six lads have been picked, but what’s the point of taking six players and then leaving four out? It’s ridiculous.

“The other four would be better off playing for their county, and England would be better sending them home. It’s only a seven-hour flight, so they could get them out there again on a plane if there was an injury.

“Moeen Ali (Worcestershire all-rounder) has told me that he is flying out there straight after the match to join the tour after his own injury problems, so if he can fly out, why can’t our lads? I’ve mentioned it to Whitaker. At the end of the day, it’s my opinion.”

On another sunny day, where the wind was happily not as ferocious as it had been on day one, Yorkshire were grateful for the fact that they still had one potential England player in Alex Lees and another who has formerly represented his country in Tim Bresnan.

After Worcestershire scored a handy 47 runs in the opening 45 minutes, advancing from 
264-8 overnight as Jack Brooks took two wickets to finish with 5-56, Lees (87) and Bresnan (78 not out) kept Yorkshire in touch after a difficult start.

Will Rhodes, the 20-year-old making his Championship debut, and Cheteshwar Pujara, the Indian overseas player making his Yorkshire Championship debut, both fell for ducks inside the first three overs as Yorkshire slipped to 3-2.

Rhodes was caught at second slip driving at a ball from Charlie Morris, and Pujara was held at third slip pushing forward to a delivery from Gareth Andrew.

It should have been 13-3, but Rich Pyrah was dropped on five by Alex Gidman moving to his left at first slip off Andrew in echoes of Yorkshire wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd’s reprieve of Moeen Ali on the first day, which would have left Worcestershire 11-3 before they recovered to 129-3.

Yorkshire, for their part, recovered to 111-3 as Lees and Pyrah added 108 in 22 overs.

A feature of Lees’s play on a slow pitch was the way he persuaded the ball to the boundary with minimum effort, not trying to hit it hard.

Pyrah produced some lovely drives and flicks before he was caught at second slip off Jack Shantry, who pinned Jack Leaning lbw to leave Yorkshire 127-4.

Lees fell just before tea, lbw to Andrew, who had Andrew Hodd caught at second slip. Shantry bowled Steve Patterson, Andrew had Brooks caught behind for a bright and breezy 26, and Karl Carver was held at short-leg off Shantry.

Bresnan stood firm, striking 11 fours in a potentially significant innings.

Scorecard: Page 18