Adam Lyth’s domestic record speaks for itself, but his path to international honours has been blocked by the quality of his peers.
Of all the victims of England’s remarkable and unprecedented strength in depth, to go with a similarly formidable talent pool in the 50-over format, Lyth, 33, is perhaps uppermost among those who have never worn the Three Lions in the 20-over discipline.
The left-hander has the record for the highest individual innings by an Englishman in T20 – 161 against Northamptonshire at Headingley in 2017, the fifth-highest by anyone in the world.
He has been a model of consistency in recent years especially, but, in an England team that presently has at least three openers vying for two places (incumbents Jos Buttler and Jason Roy, plus Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow), he has not had a look-in and is likely to reflect in years ahead on an international career confined to seven Tests appearances against New Zealand and Australia in 2015 – scant reward for a player discarded amid a once desperate search for the next Andrew Strauss.
Nonetheless, Lyth has a Test hundred to his name (107 against New Zealand at Headingley), and he is one short of 25 in a first-class format in which he averages getting on for 40.
He has been an outstanding servant to Yorkshire since making his first-team debut in 2006 and Martyn Moxon, the club’s director of cricket, says he can count himself unfortunate that he has not played T20 for his country.
Asked whether Lyth is one of the best T20 players never to have done so, Moxon told The Yorkshire Post: “Yes, absolutely. You’ve only got to look at his stats in the last two or three years especially.
“Lythy’s record stands up against some of the very best. I think in a different era he would have played international T20, but there’s massive competition at the moment in that format.
“That innings that he played against Northants at Headingley (the 161), that’s one of the best innings you’ll see.
“It was just an unbelievable innings, but it wasn’t slogging. It was controlled, aggressive batting of the highest order.”
The problem with setting such standards is having to live up to them, and although nights out like that come along once or twice in a player’s career, that innings remains Lyth’s only century in T20 to go with 18 half-centuries.
As an opener, he has the maximum amount of time available to score as many runs as possible, and if there is one area in which Moxon feels he can improve, it is to ‘go bigger’ a little more often.
“Lythy is obviously a quality player, so in terms of improvement it’s the fine lines, I guess. I guess it’s conversion rates, really, and going on and getting those 70-plus scores a little more often.
“Nine times out of 10, he’ll get us off to a good start in those first six overs, and the delicate balance is to keep going hard but not also getting out; that’s the tricky bit.
“That’s where Dawid Malan is so good; he can still score quickly but not get out, so if there’s any improvement that Lythy can make, it’s learning that trick of not only getting us off to a 50-odd off six overs kind of start, but also going on from that position on a consistent basis.”
Replicating innings such as Lyth’s against Northamptonshire is clearly easier said than done.
That night he faced just 73 balls and hit 20 of them to the boundary and seven over the rope.
Lyth strikes the ball with a delightfully fluid swing of the bat and has plenty of deftness and cute touches to boot; in a multi-format era, he is a multi-format batsman.
It is not just his batting, though, that Moxon and Yorkshire value so much.
Lyth has proved himself a more-than-useful off spinner, a man who can break up partnerships and offer control.
Twenty-two T20 wickets at an average of 22 speaks volumes for his versatility, while he has always been one of the finest fielders in the country, particularly in the slips.
In the outfield, Lyth is quick and athletic, and he has a good arm too; he is certainly up there with the best players that Yorkshire have had in modern times.
“In terms of white-ball cricket, Lythy has worked extremely hard in the last few years and we’re seeing the fruits of that,” added Moxon. “In T20, his batting speaks for itself, but his bowling and fielding is invaluable also.
“He’s one of our most athletic fielders and has a great pair of hands. He’s a three-dimensional cricketer, without a doubt.”