The 2015 English county season is underway, as Yorkshire and the MCC do battle in champion county match in the now familiar surrounds of the UAE.
While the match may be happening thousands of miles away, and the only way to keep track is via a live scorecard or the continually excellent commentary of the BBC cricket team, the match heralds the start of the English cricketing summer for many.
The champion county match is continuing to be used as a proving ground for day/night first class cricket and pink balls. However, over the last few years, the gimmick has become the norm, and the match has settled into its adopted home.
The first day of the match threw up some interesting potential portents for the season ahead. Most worrying for England fans will be the early dismissal of Alastair Cook, LBW to the evergreen Ryan Sidebottom for just three. A major worry will be Cook’s labours against left arm seamers, heading into a period of Test cricket that will be punctuated my talented southpaw quicks.
Trent Boult, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Neil Wagner will all be licking their collective lips at the sight of England’s captain shuffling about in his crease. Even Mohammad Amir may be back to wreak havoc, by the time England tour the UAE late this year.
But perhaps I’m being too hasty in writing Cook off after just one failure in his first-class innings. He did after all, look in good touch in his T20 game a few days previous.
More hearteningly for England fans, the man who may well be striding out with Cook in Antigua made a composed 50 in Yorkshire’s reply. Adam Lyth, seemed to hit his stride quickly and that surely bodes well for England’s rapidly approaching tour of the Caribbean.
James Hildreth also gave the selectors a timely nudge with a well paced 89 from 118 balls. In all likelihood, Hildreth’s time for a Test cap has come and gone, many younger players now stand ahead of him in the pecking order.
It’s sad for the Somerset stalwart, that England, unlike many other nations, appear very reluctant to embrace debutants who are a little older. Success stories such as Chris Rogers, Mike Hussey and Misbah Ul-Haq do not seem to inspire the ECB.
Hopefully the remaining days of the champion match will see some runs for Cook and Lyth, and also a few wickets for Adil Rashid as he continues his long quest for a Test cap.