Two sides that are emerging as title contenders meet at Headingley from Sunday in a game which could end the season-long unbeaten streak of one of the combatants. Middlesex have registered three wins and three draws from their six games so far, while Yorkshire have won two and drawn three of their five. Both sides are reeling from closely-fought battles in Friday’s T20 Blast fixtures: Yorkshire were stunned by a masterclass from Jos Buttler that clinched the Roses clash on the last ball, while Middlesex fell four runs short of Glamorgan’s total at the SWALEC Stadium.
Both counties will welcome the return to red-ball cricket, and this match will provide a pivotal test of whether Middlesex can sustain their impressive early-season form to mount a serious title challenge. They will be weakened by the loss of Steven Finn to England’s ODI set-up, but they still have a dangerous bowling attack that includes their leading wicket-taker this season, James Harris. Nick Compton and Sam Robson, two players that England have discarded in recent years, form the core of Middlesex’s batting unit.
Yorkshire endured a tough start to the season, losing six players to England duty, Ryan Sidebottom to injury, and Andrew Gale to suspension. However, they weathered the storm well to remain unbeaten after five games, and will hope to put forward a side fairly close to the one that won the LV County Championship last season for the rest of their games. Adam Lyth’s successful start to his England career means that it won’t be possible to have everyone available, but he will play in this match, and Yorkshire’s enviable youth set-up is already providing ample cover for the county’s international stars.
Jonny Bairstow can count himself very unlucky to not be involved in England’s ODI squad for the series against New Zealand. He impressed with his performances in the warm-up games in the Caribbean as an unused member of England’s touring party, and he has started the county season in fine form as well. He is less than a year older than incumbent keeper Jos Buttler, but there is an underlying feeling that his chances of international glory may be few in number. A top-of-the-table clash against Middlesex provides an excellent opportunity to send a timely reminder of his undeniable class.
Headingley occupies an interesting position in the career of Nick Compton. It was here in 2013 that a painful, tortured 45-ball seven precipitated the unkind end of his Test career. He has spoken openly and forthrightly about his frustration at being dumped by England, and the spectre of that Headingley Test must have weighed heavy on his mind ever since. At the end of last season, however, he seemed to have banished those demons by scoring 156 against the recently-crowned County Champions. His contribution on returning to Leeds could be crucial again – one way or the other.
Yorkshire are without Joe Root, Adil Rashid and Liam Plunkett after they were named in England’s ODI squad to face New Zealand, but they welcome back Gary Ballance and Adam Lyth to their four-day side. The absence of Adil Rashid means that Bedfordshire’s James Middlebrook, who was called up as a short-term replacement to face Warwickshire, receives another opportunity to play Championship cricket. Yorkshire also welcome back Ryan Sidebottom from his calf injury.
International cricket takes with one hand and gives back with the other for Middlesex. Eoin Morgan and Steven Finn are away on England duty for the ODI series, but Ireland’s Tim Murtagh and Paul Stirling return from the Intercontinental Cup for this match. Club captain Adam Voges is still in the West Indies with the Australia team after his barn-storming debut century in Dominica; countryman Joe Burns takes his place in the Middlesex side.
Yorkshire squad: Andrew Gale (c), Gary Ballance, Jonathan Bairstow (wk), Tim Bresnan, Jack Brooks, Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Glenn Maxwell, James Middlebrook, Steven Patterson, Ryan Sidebottom, Will Rhodes.
Middlesex squad: James Franklin (c), Joe Burns, Nick Compton, Neil Dexter, James Harris, Dawid Malan, Tim Murtagh, Harry Podmore, Ollie Rayner, Sam Robson, Toby Roland-Jones, John Simpson (wk), Paul Stirling.
Weather and conditions
Temperatures are expected to be mild, and while the sunshine is likely to be fairly uninterrupted on day one, cloudy spells are likely for the other three days. The good news is that precipitation is predicted to stay away from Headingley for the duration of this encounter, so four full days should be possible.
Date: 7th-10th June 2015
Time: 11:00am – 6:00pm
Umpires: Jeff Evans and Martin Saggers
Odds (SkyBet): Yorkshire 4/7, Middlesex 5/4