Young star Harry Duke giving Yorkshire CCC the happiest of headaches
Duke, the 21-year-old batsman/wicketkeeper, has not played a Championship fixture all season.
The last of his 17 appearances in the four-day format was in the final game of last season, against Gloucestershire at Headingley, since when he has primarily been playing in second team cricket.
Duke’s performances in the One-Day Cup, however, allied to the fact that Yorkshire’s hopes of winning Championship promotion are over due to the points penalties imposed from the racism saga, suggest that this might be a good time to bring him back in.
That does not have to be at the expense of Jonny Tattersall, of course, the man in possession of the wicketkeeping gloves, for either man could play as a specialist batsman. Indeed, Duke operated in that role on his last Championship outing, when Tattersall kept wicket and captained the team.
It is a nice problem for the Yorkshire think-tank to have, which has some freedom to experiment in the remaining four games.
Duke, who made his Championship debut as a 19-year-old in 2021, would not be drawn on a possible recall and understandably so - it is for the captain and coach, after all, to decide the best team.
All he can do is keep performing with bat and gloves, with his returns in the One-Day Cup on an upward curve: 31 against Kent, 42 against Essex, and then 93 not out against Surrey at York on Tuesday.
What can be said, without any question, is that Duke, like anyone, wants to be involved. Yorkshire return to Championship action on September 3 against Derbyshire at Scarborough, after which they travel to Glamorgan and Leicestershire before ending their season against Worcestershire at Headingley.
“I’m not looking that far ahead at the moment,” said Duke on the prospect of playing in the Championship. “I just want to contribute in each game that I get an opportunity.
“I’m just trying to be a better cricketer, forget about things like selection and stuff, and work hard at my game. If it happens, it happens, but I’m just looking to perform day-in, day out.”
Thursday brings another chance for Duke and his colleagues to do just that, when Hampshire visit York in the One-Day Cup.
It is a key match which could not only have a significant bearing on whether Yorkshire qualify but also, should they win, on whether they get a home play-off before the semi-finals.
Yorkshire are third in Group A, two points behind Hampshire in second, with the top three sides from the two groups advancing to the knockouts. The group winners head straight into the semis and receive a home tie, prior to which the second-placed teams face a home play-off against the third-placed side from the opposite group.
After the Hampshire match, Yorkshire complete their group campaign with a trip to face Leicestershire at Grace Road on Sunday - the scene of Duke’s maiden one-day century in the format two years ago on just his second appearance - followed by a journey to Radlett to play Middlesex on Tuesday.
Yorkshire are aiming to win their first one-day trophy since the 2002 Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy, when Duke was nowt but a babe-in-arms, six days short of his first birthday.
“We’ve got some tough fixtures coming up and can only take it one game at a time,” he said. “It’s like a knockout competition for us now already, and we’re just trying to embrace it and enjoy the challenge.
“Hopefully, we can get out of the group and see where that takes us. We’ll take a lot of confidence from beating Surrey; they had Test players in their team, so to go and beat them was pretty massive for us.”
That Yorkshire did so was in large part down to Duke himself, who narrowly missed out on what would have been a third hundred in 20 one-day appearances.
Not that he cared a jot about that, preferring to talk up the contribution of Dom Leech, the No 11 batsman, who supplied a vital 18 not out when the pair came together with 32 still needed chasing 242.
Duke trusted his partner from the start, running singles off the first ball of an over if necessary in a clear vote of confidence. Leech it was who pulled the winning runs, much to the delight of the 3,000 crowd.
“We just sort of said, ‘let’s just take the runs on offer and not try and do anything stupid’,” said Duke. “‘Let’s not look at the scoreboard but take it over by over.’
“I back Dom’s batting, and I remember when we won the U17s (Championship) in 2018, he played some crucial knocks in that for us.
“He doesn’t really get the opportunity to bat that much, but he’s shown that he’s got that side to his game.”