A YORKSHIREMAN as captain and a Yorkshireman as coach.
Not a bad place from which to launch a bid to regain the Ashes in 2021-22, you might say.
For that is what the series that starts in New Zealand tonight represents – the beginning of the countdown to the next major meeting with Australia.
For captain Joe Root and new coach Chris Silverwood, well known to the Yorkshire cricketing fraternity, it is exactly the sort of challenge that England require to ready themselves for that primary task.
Although the two Tests against New Zealand are significant in their own right (although not, mystifyingly, part of the wretched World Test Championship), English cricket measures itself by success in the Ashes.
Consequently, less than three months after Australia returned home with the urn, Root and Silverwood are working towards the ‘Holy Grail’ of winning it back.
We want to be competitive in the Test Championship and, as much as possible, climb up the rankings to become the No 1 team in the world.Joe Root
To do so, they need to build an attack that can win Test matches away from home: specifically, one that can take wickets with the Kookaburra ball on flat pitches.
The Kookaburra does not move around like its English equivalent, the Dukes, which is why ‘X-factor’ bowlers such as Jofra Archer are so important; they have the pace to take the ball and the pitch out of the equation.
Archer will be significant in New Zealand – “a point of difference”, according to the Kiwis’ coach, Gary Stead.
However, the hosts hope to “fight fire with fire”, as Stead puts it, with the rapid Lockie Ferguson gunning for a debut and with Neil Wagner another aggressive option.
Those players complement the timeless skills of Trent Boult and Tim Southee, New Zealand’s answer to James Anderson and Stuart Broad in terms of their threat and quality.
With Anderson still injured, however, there will be plenty on Broad in the coming weeks, but just as important as England’s bowling firepower will be the ability of their new-look batting line-up to chisel out runs.
For, after some indifferent results lately in Test cricket, the penny seems finally to have dropped with the England hierarchy that the side cannot win Test matches simply by playing a shot-a-ball a la one-day cricket.
Consequently, Dom Sibley – Warwickshire’s old-fashioned young opener – will make his debut tonight in the first Test at Mount Maunganui, with Surrey’s Ollie Pope back in the side at No 6.
Sibley deserves his chance after a good season in the County Championship and is the latest to drink from the poisoned chalice left by the departures of openers Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook.
Pope has benefited from the decision to drop Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow, who will hopefully return to the side before very long; an England team without Bairstow is like an afternoon without sunshine.
It is a big series not just for Pope, Sibley, Rory Burns and, if he gets a chance, Zak Crawley, but also Root, who has not had the returns lately he would have desired.
While the other members of world cricket’s so-called ‘Fab Four’ have continued to dominate – Messrs Steve Smith, Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson – Root has slipped out of this exalted pantheon, dropping to seventh in the International Cricket Council rankings.
The slide may only be temporary; Root is back in his favoured position of No 4 for this series and confident that some technical adjustments are set to pay dividends.
However, he could do with a good rubber – the second and final Test begins in Hamilton tomorrow week – to remind one and all of his sparkling quality.
It promises, on paper, to be a fascinating series, perhaps even the stiffest of England’s winter Test engagements which continue with tours to South Africa and Sri Lanka.
No side led by Williamson, the New Zealand captain and sometime Yorkshire batsman, is to be treated lightly – New Zealand are second in the Test rankings, after all, with England third as both seek to close the gap on leaders India.
But England’s ultimate objective remains building towards the Ashes in two years’ time, the No 1 focus for Root and Silverwood.
“We know that over the next couple of years we want to do everything we can to be in the best shape possible to go down to Australia and win,” said Root.
“We want to be competitive in the Test Championship and, as much as possible, climb up the rankings to become the No 1 team in the world.
“We’ve got 25 games to build on that journey and make sure when we go down there we’re in a really strong position to take on Australia in their conditions.”
For Root and Silverwood, that journey starts now – two Yorkshiremen seeking to prove the old adage that a strong Yorkshire is a strong England.