Essex v Yorkshire: Joe Root ‘playing cricket with his mates will probably be the best thing for him right now’

TWENTY days after resigning the England Test captaincy, his race run, his “most challenging decision” consigned to the past, Joe Root returns to the Yorkshire side for the County Championship game against Essex in Chelmsford.

For Ottis Gibson, the Yorkshire head coach, it is exactly what Root needs as he readjusts to life back in the ranks.

It is also what Yorkshire need as they go in search of wins before the start of the Test summer, with this the first of three Championship fixtures before the first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s on June 2, when Root may be far from the only Yorkshire player involved in that match.

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Root, 31, is unlikely to be the sort of cricketer who finds the transition difficult in a performance sense.

Former England captain Joe Root will make his county return for Yorkshire on Thursday.

When has he not performed, one would have to wonder; even during a recent poor run for the England team, his personal record was always impressive, his ability to compartmentalise the various challenges of batting and captaincy not the least of his myriad qualities.

At the same time, this is a new chapter for a man who can look back proudly on having achieved the most Test wins (27) of any England captain.

It has been a difficult few weeks (Root captained his country as proudly as anyone), so what better, believes Gibson, than for the player to be back in the bosom of his Yorkshire team-mates, where he is always guaranteed a warm welcome.

“With everything that he’s gone through in the last couple of weeks, months, whatever, to come back to Yorkshire to play cricket with his mates will probably be the best thing for him right now,” said Gibson.

Yorkshire interim managing director of cricket Darren Gough and head coach Ottis Gibson. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

“To get away from the pressure and the environment of international cricket, and to come back here and hopefully carry on his fantastic run-making spree that he’s been on for so long, can only be good.

“What I’ve been told is that Joe loves playing for Yorkshire, and it’s fantastic to have him in our batting line-up. We all know what an outstanding player he is.”

Root netted at Headingley last week after a short break following the West Indies tour.

“He’s been away for so long, he wanted to know where all of his training kit was,” smiled Gibson, who quipped that “I fined him because he had the wrong kit on”.

The former fast bowler added: “He came in a couple of times, and it was nice to have him around. He’s just happy to be here and enjoys being here.”

This game is a meeting between the two previous Test captains, Root and Sir Alastair Cook, the latter having scored 272 runs in Essex’s first four fixtures – 100 of them exactly in his first innings of the season against Kent at Chelmsford.

After 59 in the first innings of the next match, against Somerset at Taunton, Cook’s returns have dipped with scores of 3, 23, 36, 6 and 19, reflecting the difficulty, no doubt, of batting in April against the new ball.

Essex, who are widely tipped to do well this season, have yet to find their best form collectively, having won one, lost one and drawn two.

Yorkshire, in fourth, are eight points and one place above them with a game in hand, having won one and drawn two and played well generally.

Gibson does not view this match, however, as a step up in challenge in the sense that Yorkshire have played three largely unfancied teams so far in Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire and Kent. Rather, he views every game as a challenge in its own right.

“Every game is the same,” he said. “Every game is tough. We’ve got a lot of guys in the dressing room who are playing good cricket, but we’ve got to keep putting in the work. We haven’t won every game we’ve played, but we’ve played well enough to have won every game so far.”

Gibson continued: “Essex are a very good team, even though they may not have had the greatest start to the season. If a team doesn’t start well, you don’t want to be the team to get them off and running, so hopefully we can get everything right and keep them in the position they’re in.”

Root will slot into a batting line-up in which Harry Brook and Dawid Malan have been excellent to date.

Brook has started the season with five successive scores of 50-plus, including two hundreds, and Malan has hit four successive scores of 50-plus, including one century. On current form, both could play for England alongside Root.

“England are looking for batsmen and those two are right up there,” said Gibson. “Brooky is playing fantastically well; he reads situations so well and works hard at his game.

“Malan... I guess to a lot of people it would have been a mystery why he wasn’t in the West Indies, and now we’re reaping the rewards of that. He’s obviously got something to prove to them (England), and he’s proving it with his bat.”

Ben Coad could make his first appearance of the season after recovering from a groin injury. Fellow pace bowler Haris Rauf has a side injury but has travelled to Chelmsford to continue his rehabilitation.

Squad: Bess, Brook, Coad, Duke, Hill, Karunaratne, Loten, Lyth, Malan, Patterson (captain), Rauf, Revis, Root, Thompson.