Yorkshire v Hampshire: Lyth now aiming to shake off the rust on return
Lyth is optimistic he will get the nod to replace Jonathan Trott as Alastair Cook’s opening partner in the Test team following Trott’s retirement from international cricket.
The Warwickshire batsman managed only 59 runs in six innings at an average of 12 in the three-match Test series in the West Indies in a selection blunder by the England management.
Lyth was overlooked for all three Tests in the Caribbean along with county colleagues Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and Jonny Bairstow, with all four Yorkshire players set to feature in their first County Championship match of the season tomorrow against Hampshire at Headingley.
Lyth, Rashid and Bairstow will be making their first first-class appearances since the Champion County match against MCC in Abu Dhabi in March, while Plunkett’s last first-class outing was in January on the England Lions tour of South Africa.
The visit of Hampshire will be Lyth’s only chance to impress before the squad for the first Test at Lord’s is announced on Thursday, with that game taking place from May 21-25.
“I’m hopeful that I will get my chance against New Zealand later this month and finally represent my country,” said Lyth, whose second Test appearance could be at Headingley in the second and final Test against the Kiwis starting on May 29.
“I am very confident that I will play (for England), but, in the meantime, I need to start the season well with Yorkshire and get some runs.
“It will be a challenge (coming back to county cricket) but I relish the pressure.
“I’m looking forward to opening the batting with Alex (Lees) and continuing from where we left off last season.”
Lyth and Lees shared an average stand of 72 in last season’s Championship to underpin Yorkshire’s title triumph.
Lyth was the leading run-scorer in Division One with 1,489 at 67.68, including six hundreds, statistics that made a mockery of England’s decision to overlook him in the West Indies, while Lees hit 971 runs at 44.13 and is another left-hander with England ambitions.
Lyth – who made 113 and 46 not out in Yorkshire’s nine-wicket win against the MCC in March – had only one innings on the West Indies tour, scoring 23 against a St Kitts Invitation XI in Basseterre.
He spent most of his time in the nets or carrying drinks, but insists that he still enjoyed the experience.
“I really enjoyed my time with England,” said Lyth.
“Even though I didn’t play in the Test series, I gained a lot from the trip and how you prepare for international cricket.
“Now I’m looking forward to playing against Hampshire and they will come to Headingley with some confidence.
“They are a good side and they deserved to get promoted last year, and they’ve got some quality players and a strong bowling attack.”
Hampshire have yet to fire on their return to Division One, recording two draws and a defeat to sit seventh in the table.
Yorkshire, in fourth, will expect to beat them to really kickstart their title challenge, and the hosts are at full strength minus England regulars Joe Root and Gary Ballance, plus the injured Ryan Sidebottom.
On paper, it is a home banker as Yorkshire look to build on victory at Worcestershire and draws at Nottinghamshire and at home to Warwickshire, but there are bound to be concerns as to how the returning England players will fare having played so little.
However, Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale is adamant they will rise to the challenge as Yorkshire seek a muscle-flexing display.
“I hope they haven’t just been jet-skiing and windsurfing in the Caribbean,” quipped Gale.
“Hopefully, they’ve been in the nets and practising hard, but there’s nothing like time in the middle, of course.
“They will be a little bit rusty, no doubt, but, hopefully, they’ll hit the ground running, too.
“They’ve not played much cricket, but I’m sure their personal ambition will take over and they will all want to stake a claim to get into the England side for New Zealand and the Ashes.”
Gale believes the mere presence of the England players will give Yorkshire a lift.
The international quartet return at the expense of opening batsman Will Rhodes, wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd, off-spinner James Middlebrook and pace bowler Matthew Fisher, who make way from the team that drew with Warwickshire, with 17-year-old Fisher also unavailable for the club’s next Championship match at Somerset from May 24 due to taking his exams.
“It will certainly be good to have the England players back,” added Gale.
“We’ve fought bloody hard with the players that we’ve had in their place, and young lads like Will Rhodes and Matt Fisher have done really well and can be proud of their efforts.
“We’ll obviously be stronger for having the four England lads back and it will give the rest of the lads a massive boost.
“Obviously, some lads will be disappointed at having to miss out on this occasion, but I’m sure that at other stages in the year they will get their opportunity.”
Spectators are reminded that there will be a number of road closures in and around the Headingley/Leeds area tomorrow due to the Leeds half-marathon.
For full details of the roads affected, visit yorkshireccc.com.