Somerset v Yorkshire - Andrew Hodd will require support in his role as back-up

Yorkshire's Andrew Hodd (Picture: Allan McKenzie/
Yorkshire's Andrew Hodd (Picture: Allan McKenzie/
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AND so begins the acid test.

Having had Jonny Bairstow available for their four County Championship matches to date, and Joe Root for their last two games, Yorkshire embark on life without two of the sport’s leading stars when they face Somerset at Taunton, starting tomorrow.

The international season is upon us, with the first of seven Test matches beginning at Headingley on Thursday when England entertain Sri Lanka.

For Yorkshire, it means precious little of Bairstow and Root from hereon in as they seek to secure a hat-trick of Championships.

To say that they will leave a big hole is an understatement.

Yorkshire are used to being without Root, of course, who did not play a single Championship game last year, but less so Bairstow, who was the biggest reason they retained their title.

It was not just the bare statistics of 1,108 runs at 92.33 that stressed his contribution, but the speed at which Bairstow scored his runs and the state of the match when he scored them.

Time and again, Bairstow got Yorkshire out of trouble to the point where it became almost boring.

Already this season, he has produced scores of 246 and 198 at a time when Yorkshire were respectively 41-3 against Hampshire and 45-3 against Surrey, helping them to achieve their first Championship victory of the year in the latter game at the fourth time of asking.

It was certainly not a one-man show, of course, as Root chipped in with the small matter of 213 as Surrey’s bowlers were put to the sword.

The pair added a Yorkshire record 372 for the fourth-wicket at a rate of 5.5 runs per over, setting a foundation that enabled the home side to win despite significant time lost to rain.

Root even took the key wickets of Kumar Sangakkara and Steven Davies as Yorkshire completed victory by an innings and 20 runs with 4.5 overs of the contest remaining.

The win lifted Yorkshire one point clear of Lancashire at the top, although the Red Rose have a match in hand.

The main thing, though, is that Yorkshire are on the board and up and running as they wave goodbye to Root and Bairstow.

It could have been worse.

They could also have been waving goodbye to Adam Lyth, Gary Ballance, Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid had they been selected for international duty, and it will be no surprise if those players feature in the Tests at some point this summer.

But how Yorkshire cope without Bairstow is, to these eyes, their biggest challenge going forward as they look to build on last week’s impressive result and bring their dream of a hat-trick of Championships ever closer.

To that effect, the burden of responsibility does not fall solely on the shoulders of Andrew Hodd, who will take Bairstow’s place behind the stumps.

In recent times, Yorkshire have been blessed indeed to have Hodd – one of the country’s best wicketkeepers – available to step up from the second XI to cover for Bairstow’s then less frequent absences.

But now that Bairstow has become an increasingly important member of the Test team, on the back of a breakthrough series in South Africa last winter, so Hodd is set to become an increasingly important member of the Championship side, a challenge to which he will no doubt rise.

This is a man, after all, who drops little and can score fifties and hundreds; in other words, the perfect understudy.

At the same time, no one individual can replace Bairstow’s volume of runs, so it is down to the whole top-order to stand up and be counted.

Yorkshire cannot keep regularly falling to 40-3 and expect to keep winning Championships without the likes of Bairstow and Root to bail them out, so they need a talented top-order to give a cushion to the bowlers, who, in turn, need to keep showing more of the form they displayed against Surrey – not least at a Taunton venue where a featherbed pitch means bowlers have to work harder for wickets.

Not that Yorkshire are helped by the number of players they have injured at present.

Tim Bresnan has still not quite recovered from the calf injury that has prevented him from turning out in the Championship this year, although he will travel to the south-west to continue his rehabilitation.

Ryan Sidebottom is still out with an ankle injury and David Willey unable to bowl for six weeks due to an abdominal tear.

In addition, young pace bowler Matthew Fisher has a hamstring problem and will miss the start of the T20 Blast, which begins on Friday week.

Along with Hodd, batsman Jack Leaning and spinner Karl Carver return to the Championship squad this week, with all-rounder Will Rhodes and left-arm pace bowler James Wainman keeping their squad places.

Wainman, 23, will be hoping for a first-class debut to add to his one List A appearance so far, against Sri Lanka at Leeds two years ago.