Yorkshire started their County Championship title defence in convincing style with a comfortable nine-wicket win over the MCC in Abu Dhabi.
Before the third day of the Champion County fixture was seven overs old, England’s Test skipper Alastair Cook was caught at mid-wicket for his second single-figure score of the match. The MCC had started their innings 151 runs behind Yorkshire, and they never looked like putting up a competitive total.
After Cook’s departure, MCC captain Nick Compton shared solid stands with Michael Carberry and James Hildreth, but after he was dismissed with the score on 125-3, the MCC’s lower order added just 95 runs for the final seven wickets.
It was a fine team bowling performance from Yorkshire, with Adil Rashid picking up four wickets, and Jack Brooks three. Brooks had struggled for line and especially length in his first spell of the match, but recovered later in the first innings to remove Sam Billings and Chris Rushworth.
His prize scalp in the second innings was Cook, who must be ruing the missed opportunity that this Champion County match was supposed to represent – theoretically using this match to get some touch and confidence back before the tour of the West Indies. Runs here, of any kind, would have gone at least part of the way towards proving to the world that the old Alastair Cook is still lurking inside of him, the man with 25 Test centuries and the ability to grind down bowling attacks. As it has turned out, questions about his form have only intensified.
Matters have not been helped by the sparkling form of Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth. He followed up his superb century in the first innings with an attractive 46 off 65 balls to see Yorkshire comfortably to their target of 70. He lost only his opening partner Alex Lees, who was caught behind off Adam Riley for just eight.
For many of the MCC players, there were a number of encouraging signs from this match. Nick Compton atoned for his golden duck in the first innings with a strong 74, showing all of the hallmarks of his batting – patience and excellent judgement – that were worryingly absent from the loose drive that got him out to the first ball of the match.
Adam Riley has a tendency to pitch the ball too short on occasion, but the experience of bowling so many overs to top-quality opposition will be valuable for him. Overlooked for the England Test squad in favour of his teammate James Tredwell, he is nevertheless certainly on England’s radar as a future prospect.
Hildreth was out lbw to Rashid on 49, a run short of what would have been his second half-century of the match. At 30, and with the number of young, talented middle-order batsmen floating around the county circuit, Hildreth may never achieve the international honours his talent initially promised. But after a lean 2014 for Somerset, he has set the platform for an improved showing this year.
As well as the encouraging performances of Lyth and Rashid ahead of their first Test tour with England, the fact that young hopeful Will Rhodes made a 50 on his first-class debut will reassure Yorkshire supporters concerned with the depletion of the White Rose’s squad through international call-ups. Jack Leaning also made runs in the T20 matches on this tour, so it seems that the Yorkshire talent-production conveyor belt is still fully operational.
This can only be good news for England, at a time when they need all the good news they can get.