Somerset are back in action on Friday when they host Yorkshire at Taunton.
Yorkshire currently lie top of the Championship after two games with 26 points, handicapped by the abandonment of their opening round game without a ball being bowled. Potentially crucial for later in the year is that neither side accrued any bonus points. We all know how crucial those points can be at the end of the season (just ask our friends from Lord’s)
Our visitors opened their campaign in earnest last week with a 164-run success over a newly promoted Notts who don’t appear to have cured the issues that resulted in their relegation in 2016. Steve Mullaney, the Notts captain said after the game that Yorkshire “simply outplayed them”, a comment which says more about Notts mindset than Yorkshire’s performance.
Predicting the Yorkshire line-up is complicated by the number of centrally contracted players but this year only Liam Plunkett is involved in the IPL with the Delhi Daredevils. Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow are not being made available by England until the next round of matches. And of course, Adil Rashid has taken a sabbatical from red ball cricket
The batting has plenty of experience in Lees, Lyth, Ballance and Pujara but looks a bit vulnerable with a middle order of the talented, but as yet unproven at this level, Harry Brook at 5 and Jack Leaning at 6, a player who has failed at 25 to deliver the early promise.
The lower middle order is in the capable hands of wicketkeeper Andy Hodd and Tim Bresnan, surely one of the most genuine and respected cricketers on the circuit. Hodd and Bresnan were very much involved in Yorkshire’s batting last week, the former with a crucial 62 in the first innings and the latter with an unbeaten 68 in the second. Somerset need to be wary of Yorkshire’s fondness of lower order resistance after an upper order collapse.
The bowling is very seam oriented – Adam Lyth twirled just three overs last week – leaving the bulk of the work to Ben Coad – who took 10 wickets in the match and the now senior pro Jack Brooks. Coad impressed me when I saw him at Scarborough last year and he seems to be progressing rapidly. Brooks has not enjoyed his visits to Taunton in his time but says he has been speaking the Overton twins and realises he needs to adjust his natural length if he is to make a mark this weekend.
The seam department is however weakened by the absence of Plunkett and the retired Ryan Sidebottom and it is to be hoped that that lack of experience proves crucial.
Somerset will be without Jamie Overton, although the news on his side strain seems encouraging the game comes too quickly. The other concern is opener Ed Byron who injured his shoulder fielding on Sunday. Encouragingly Tom Banton made a strong case for his debut with a century and a double for the 2nds against Kent. I expect to see a pretty much unchanged team from last week for the hosts.
The win against Worcestershire, comprehensive as it was and with some encouraging performances highlighted that the issues of last season’s batting haven’t entirely gone away. The win was built principally around a pair of centuries, but it would be good to see a couple of innings of solid contributions from the top 7.
Matt Renshaw was born in Middlesbrough and has a couple of interesting connections with the current Yorkshire squad, his dad played for Sheffield Collegiate alongside Joe Root’s father while Matt’s mum used to teach Liam Plunkett maths.
Finally, a word for the much-missed Dave Callaghan, BBC Yorkshire’s wonderful commentator who passed away earlier this year. His voice was one of these that quickly became synonymous with the BBC’s wonderful online coverage. He will be sadly missed by us all, not least I am sure Anthony Gibson when he steps into the Taunton commentary box on Friday morning.