Ahead of England’s Test series against New Zealand – which features a large number of Yorkshire players – Deep Extra Cover’s Michael McCann investigates the idea of a clash between Yorkshire and England.
Geoffrey Boycott has recently engaged in a war of words with England captain Alastair Cook, including suggesting that Yorkshire would defeat the current national team.
So, is Boycott right – are Yorkshire better than England?
The former England opener criticised the comments of Cook regarding incoming England and Wales Cricket Board boss Colin Graves, calling them “out of order.”
Cook said Graves had inspired West Indies with his “mediocre” remark, adding: “That’s a Yorkshireman for you… they’re quite happy to talk a good game,”
In his Daily Telegraph column on Tuesday, Boycott wrote: “Every time Cook opens his mouth, he sticks his foot in it.
“Cook acts as if he is the best captain England have ever had.
“He is living in cloud-cuckoo land about his captaincy ability. He thinks he is untouchable.”
Concerning a direct comparison between Yorkshire and England, it certainly makes for interesting hypothetical reading.
The fact that even ex-Lancashire cricketer Michael Atherton posited the idea of which XI, assuming England lost their Yorkshire contingent, would be stronger shows this can be taken seriously.
Yorkshire are the reigning County Champions, and have begun with a win and a draw this season despite being deprived of six players to the England tour of the West Indies.
This includes Joe Root and Gary Ballance, who have superb recent records for England in test matches, whilst Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Adam Lyth and Jonny Bairstow did not feature.
Dickie Bird expressed his disappointment about the lack of opportunities for Rashid in particular in an interview with me earlier this season at Trent Bridge (watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJFNvzgJGmI )
The famous umpire suggested that England call-ups throughout the summer, combined with an unfortunate injury to key seamer Ryan Sidebottom, would make Yorkshire retaining their County Championship title very difficult.
However, how would the White Rose compare to England if they did not lose any players to the national team?
Some comparisons have seen Yorkshire be able to retain the overseas player, most recently Kane Williamson, that is allowed in four-day cricket.
I however am only going to stick to non-overseas Yorkshire players, even though some would wryly argue that many players from the national team are not truly ‘English’ – that debate is for another day.
Here are the two potential XIs that could face off against each other in this hypothetical four or five-day match.
Yorkshire – England
1 Adam Lyth – Alastair Cook
2 Alex Lees – Sam Robson/Alex Hales/Nick Compton
3 Gary Ballance – Ian Bell
4 Joe Root – James Taylor
5 Andrew Gale – Eoin Morgan
6 Jonny Bairstow – Mooen Ali
7 Adil Rashid – Jos Buttler
8 Tim Bresnan – Ben Stokes
9 Liam Plunkett – Stuart Broad
10 Ryan Sidebottom – James Anderson
11 Jack Brooks – Graham Onions/Mark Wood
Those line-ups appear to make for a competitive fixture – it seems perfectly plausible that in the near future Lees, Lyth, Root and Ballance could all be fixtures in the top six for England
Six of that Yorkshire team have full international honours, whilst all of them have at least been involved in the England ‘A’ or development squad.
Though Yorkshire could conceivably win this, one might suggest that England would probably edge this fixture for a variety of reasons.
Firstly England possess Anderson, a world-class performer who is a class above any bowler on either side.
Moreover, Broad has proven international pedigree and, unlike Sidebottom and Bresnan, is on the right side of 30.
Meanwhile for the Yorkies Jack Brooks is an outstanding bowler, capable of claiming valuable wickets in clusters, seen most recently by a devastating spell to lead the White Rose to victory over Worcester.
However, Graham Onions has shown his worth in county cricket across a longer period of time, and done well in rare England outings before injury troubles hit.
In recent years Jos Buttler has consistently shown himself to be both a better batsman and gloveman than Jonny Bairstow, leading to the 24 year-old securing his spot in the test-match team for the foreseeable future.
Ben Stokes at eight also gives England superior depth in the batting ranks, though the respective top orders appear too close to call.
Lees and Lyth becoming the England opening pair in tests is far from impossible, with both positing numbers in County Championship Division 1 that match or better Robson, Hales and Compton in recent years.
Cook recently does appear to have found his best form again through five half-centuries and a ton across his most recent eight test innings to retain his place.
However, the power duo of Ballance and Root, who were imperious against Sri Lanka and India last summer, before sharing over 400 runs in the recent West Indies series, give Yorkshire a slight edge over Bell and Taylor at numbers three and four.
Yorkshire skipper Gale probably loses to Morgan on natural talent, but the latter has struggled in red-ball cricket, leaving that relatively even.
Finally the debate between Mooen Ali and Adil Rashid, given the formers struggles in the West Indies, is one already ignited looking to the future of English cricket.
Certainly Rashid was outstanding with ball and bat in Divison One of the County Championship last season and would be deserving of further chances with England, whilst Ali is currently failing to justify his position through either his bowling or batting on current form.
If one adjusted this to Yorkshire holding Bresnan and Sidebottom when both were performing for England at the peak of their powers, it would make extremely difficult to call, particularly given the former was a capable number eight in the test arena.
To conclude though England appear to hold a slight edge over Yorkshire, the comparison is certainly no mis-match, and shows that a strong Yorkshire really is a strong England.