A NUMBER of players could consider themselves unfortunate to have missed out on the England squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka at Lord’s starting on Thursday.
Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler, two brilliant batsmen/wicketkeepers for the White and Red Rose counties, respectively.
Samit Patel, the lavishly gifted Nottinghamshire all-rounder. Ben Stokes, whom England deemed not quite ready after his recent return to action after injury and a shining light on the Ashes tour.
Michael Carberry, Tim Bresnan, Jack Brooks… any number of players could have been in with a shout.
To their number can be added Adam Lyth, leading run-scorer in first-class cricket this year with 784 at 71.27, and a man who hopes to continue that form in the County Championship match against Nottinghamshire starting today.
Lyth, the 26-year-old Yorkshire opener, has reprised the red-hot streak that made him the first player in England to 1,000 first-class runs in 2010.
His efforts that summer, which helped Yorkshire to a third-placed finish in the County Championship, saw him spoken of as a possible candidate for that winter’s Ashes tour.
Some tough times followed, however, with soft dismissals hampering his progress, but the Whitby-born player has now come again.
No-one who has seen him in action for Yorkshire this season would put him a million miles behind Sam Robson, the Middlesex opener who got the nod for the Test squad, if they would even put him behind Robson at all.
For what it is worth, I would have picked Lyth for the first Test, and there is no doubting that he is one of the most attractive players to watch in the country.
A Lyth cover drive is not simply a cricket stroke – it is a work of art, like a painting or a piece of music.
It is the signature tune of an extremely gifted and stylish young player.
Now Lyth appears to have added something else to his armoury – improved concentration.
His 230 against Northamptonshire last week was proof of it, an innings that combined flair with fortitude after Yorkshire had found themselves up a certain creek without a paddle.
Having conceded a first innings deficit of 115, Yorkshire needed to graft hard and that is precisely what they did as they made 546-3 declared in their second innings, Lyth and fellow left-hander Alex Lees adding 375 for the first wicket – Yorkshire’s highest stand since Percy Holmes and Herbert Sutcliffe’s famous 555 against Essex at Leyton in 1932.
In times past, Lyth might have “nicked off” early, as they say in the trade, giving a catch to the wicketkeeper or the slips.
But, as Yorkshire first-team coach Jason Gillespie says, Lyth has worked hard to improve that side of his game and is now reaping the rewards.
“We’ve always known Adam is a skilful cricketer, but this year he’s scored runs in difficult situations,” said Gillespie. “That’s what you want, especially from an opening batsman.
“Sometimes, you’ve got to set your stall out and be in survival mode and get through tough periods. Adam’s been able to find that balance between getting through tough periods and then putting pressure back on the opposition with positive intent, that’s the real pleasing thing from my point of view.”
Three hundreds and four 50s in 11 first-class innings evidence the improvements that Lyth has made. But the man himself is taking nothing for granted.
“I’m in great form at the minute, but I have to keep working hard on my game,” he said. “I’ve tried to concentrate as much as I can; the pre-season tour to Sri Lanka helped me a lot and I managed to get some runs over there.
“I started well in the university game in the first match of the season back home and the momentum has carried on really.
“I feel as though I’m in a great place at the minute, but things can change quickly and you have to keep working hard.”
Lyth’s concentration was particularly evident when he fought through a testing period at Northampton in the nervous 90s.
In fact, he took 53 balls to go from 90 and through to his 10th first-class cricket century.
“I wasn’t concerned how many balls I faced in the 90s,” he reflected. “I just wanted to get to 100 and I really had to work for it. They bowled very wide of the stumps, so I let them come to me and tried to be patient.
“I think I know where my off stump is a bit more now and I’m leaving the ball better, but if it’s in my area, it’s still going for four.”
If Lyth keeps improving, an England call-up cannot be ruled out.
Liam Plunkett, his Yorkshire pace bowling team-mate, has already shown what can be achieved through sheer hard work and dedication.
“It’s the old cliche, but I’m not thinking about England,” said Lyth. “If it comes, that would be great. But I want to concentrate on scoring runs and trying to win some matches for Yorkshire.”