YORKSHIRE first-team coach Andrew Gale is confident that the Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow effect can ignite the club’s bid for the Championship title.
They welcome back the England duo for the game against Essex at Chelmsford, starting today, and for next week’s match against Surrey at The Oval.
Gale believes that they can help provide lift-off after a so-so start to Yorkshire’s season, with the club having beaten Nottinghamshire and lost to Somerset after their Essex home game was lost to the weather.
“Root and Bairstow are a fantastic addition to any team and will help to give our season a lift,” said Gale.
“We don’t get to see them very often, so it’s a big help to have them available before the Tests.
“Not only are they two great players, but they can give a lot of confidence to the other batsmen.
“If they stand up and make a big contribution then the others can see how it’s done first-hand.”
Gale’s desire for Root and Bairstow to lead by example comes as Yorkshire seek more consistency from their batsmen.
The batting has struggled in recent seasons – not least when Yorkshire were shot out for 111 and 74 at Chelmsford in the final match of last summer – and there were concerning chinks at Taunton last week where Yorkshire were dismissed for 96 in their first innings.
Contributions from such as Root and Bairstow – and overseas player Cheteshwar Pujara, who has opened the season with four low scores – would be a major boost against champions Essex, who have former England captain Alastair Cook available.
And having talked extensively to both players, Gale is adamant that Root and Bairstow are refreshed and raring to go as they build towards England’s Test series against Pakistan later this month.
“They’ve both been in the nets since last week and have been building up nicely to the Essex game,” he said.
“I’ve had long conversations with both of them to make sure that they are match-ready, and they’ve told me that they’re good to go.
“Obviously I don’t want this to just be a warm-up for Test cricket because we’ve got two massive games coming up for which they’re available.
“I offered them a second-team game (for extra practice), but they said they’re ready.”
Root and Bairstow’s availability means that batsman Alex Lees and wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd have gone out of the squad on duty at Somerset along with all-rounder Matt Waite, who has been replaced by pace bowler Steve Patterson, who had been struggling with a broken finger.
Lees and Waite have been named in a 12-man squad to face Leicestershire in a Second XI Trophy match at Stamford Bridge today along with leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who is gearing up towards the Royal London One-Day Cup that starts later this month.
Yorkshire remain without all-rounders Liam Plunkett and David Willey, who are at the Indian Premier League, while pace bowler Matthew Fisher hopes to step up his recovery from a pre-season side injury in a three-day second-team match against Durham at Emerald Headingley, starting on Wednesday.
“It’s unlucky on any player who misses out selection-wise at this early stage of the season,” said Gale.
“We’ve seen it already with Alex Lees, who missed out at Taunton in favour of young Harry Brook.
“Harry played really nicely at Headingley the previous week, and he’s shown good signs in the first couple of games.
“He’s showing all the signs of being a good first-class player and he looks at home in first-class cricket.”
Yorkshire included a specialist spinner at Taunton in left-armer Karl Carver, who retains his place in a 13-man squad.
Carver was not called on to bowl in either innings in the West Country, with batsman Adam Lyth sending down the only two overs of spin that Yorkshire utilised, while Somerset’s spinner Dom Bess bowled only 9.1 overs.
“Someone had to miss out at Taunton to get a spinner into our side,” said Gale.
“Looking at the pitch it looked pretty dry underneath, so I expected spin to play some part.
“As it turned out there were hardly any overs of spin in the game, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“It was a tough call on Alex (Lees), but the other two lads contributed with the bat the week before, Jack (Leaning) and Harry (Brook), so we went with them instead.”
Yorkshire are set to face arguably the world’s best batsman next month after Virat Kohli signed for Surrey. India’s captain will play three Championship matches ahead of the Test series against England later this summer, including the game against Yorkshire at Scarborough (June 25-28).
That is due to be Kohli’s final match before the Test series as he strives to improve a curiously poor record on English soil, where he averaged only 13 in the Test series four years ago.
Kohli has been given permission to miss India’s inaugural Test against Afghanistan next month to become acclimatized to English conditions and will make his Surrey debut in a one-day match against Kent on June 1.