Division One of the County Championship remains a three-horse race with just two games remaining – and two of the contenders square off at Headingley this week as the tension reaches fever pitch.
Yorkshire have closed the gap on leaders Middlesex to just a single point as they go in pursuit of a third successive Division One title.
The White Rose will be in the strange position this week of cheering on their Roses rivals Lancashire – who face Middlesex at Old Trafford. A favour from across the Pennines, coupled with a Yorkshire win which would eliminate Somerset from the race, would put Jason Gillespie’s side in control of the title race heading into a final round clash with Middlesex at Lord’s.
So it’s all to play for at Headingley, particularly thanks to Somerset’s tense victory over Warwickshire last week, which keeps Matthew Maynard’s side firmly in the hunt. They are 21 points adrift of Yorkshire however, and will also be rooting for a Lancashire victory at Old Trafford to help them rein in Middlesex.
But Somerset firstly need to take care of their own business and know that anything other than a win at Headingley will end their hopes of their first County Championship title.
They know that will be no mean feat against a Yorkshire side who have won three successive home games and are on the march towards clinching a third title in a row and a final triumph for departing coach Gillespie.
Yorkshire are also boosted by the return of a trio of stars who were involved in England’s limited-overs series win against Pakistan. Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and David Willey could all return to further strengthen Yorkshire’s chances this week.
Both sides will have in-form bowlers to call on, with Yorkshire’s Jack Brooks passing 50 scalps for the season last week, while Somerset spinner Jack Leach claimed 6-42 in the second innings against Warwickshire.
When it comes to in-form players, the confidence of Yorkshire’s opening pair must be sky-high. Adam Lyth posted an unbeaten 114 in the second innings of their win against Durham but it was his partner who stole the headlines. Alex Lees’ 132 & 88 was instrumental in guiding Yorkshire to victory and he will hope to reach similar heights against Somerset. The left-hander is the second-highest runs scorer in Division One this season.
If Somerset are to make history and clinch their first title, a man who has been with the club for his whole career will have a key role to play. 40-year-old Marcus Trescothick has been in sparkling form again this season, scoring over 1000 runs at an average of 50.71. The left-hander sets the tone at the top of the order and his experience will be invaluable if Somerset are to triumph at Headingley.
Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett are likely to slot straight back into the side, but David Willey might find it tough to edge out fellow left-armer Ryan Sidebottom. Lyth and Lees will open as usual while Andrew Gale skippers the side.
Yorkshire squad: Andrew Gale (c), Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Jack Brooks, Andrew Hodd (wicketkeeeper), Alex Lees, Jake Lehmann, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Ryan Sidebottom, David Willey
Jim Allenby, Josh Davey and Craig Overton have come into the squad on top of the XI that was successful against Warwickshire, though Somerset are likely to remain unchanged, meaning young Tom Abell will continue to open alongside Trescothick.
Somerset squad: Chris Rogers (c), Tom Abell, Jim Allenby, Dominic Bess, Josh Davey, Ryan Davies (wicketkeeper), Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Peter Trego, Marcus Trescothick, Roelof van der Merwe
Weather and Conditions:
The weather is set to be dry, fine and warm on Tuesday and Wednesday – possibly as high as 27 degrees.
Date: 12th – 15th September 2016
Odds (skybet): Yorkshire 1/2, Somerset 13/8