Other counties will argue against this assertion, but Yorkshire v Lancashire is without doubt the biggest clash English domestic cricket has to offer. History, pride and bragging rights are always at stake when these two great rivals meet, but this time Division One points might matter just as much.
Few would have predicted back in April that, five games in to the new season, newly-promoted Lancashire would be ahead of back-to-back county champions Yorkshire in the Division One table.
But, thanks to three successive home wins, Lancashire top the table and stand 19 points clear of their illustrious Roses rivals.
Yorkshire remain unbeaten but have clinched just one victory so far in what has been a somewhat underwhelming start by the reigning champions.
That’s largely because their batsmen have yet to really fire in the competition this season. Aside from Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root, who both average more than 80 this season, no other recognised batsmen average more than 35.
With that duo away with England, it’s a potential weakness Lancashire will be looking to exploit.
And their bowlers are in ideal form to be able to do so, having made a fantastic start to the season. Kyle Jarvis picked up match figures of 11-119 in victory over Surrey last weekend and is now the second highest wicket-taker in Division One with 24 scalps to his name.
New Zealander Neil Wagner has also taken 11 wickets in a match this season, while Tom Bailey has picked up nine wickets in just two matches so far this campaign.
But that’s not to suggest that Lancashire are table-topping purely on the strength of their bowling. The Red Rose are yet to post a first innings total of less than 326, while Luke Procter, Liam Livingstone and Alviro Petersen have all notched centuries this season.
So the contest seems to be set up perfectly. Ashley Giles’ Lancashire will head to Headingley full of confidence but will know that Yorkshire represent the biggest test they have faced so far this season.
Yorkshire are unbeaten in their last 19 home games, but Lancashire have lost just one of their last 16 Roses matches.
Lancashire all-rounder Tom Smith acknowledged the challenge but believes Lancashire can take something from their trip to Headingley.
“They are a strong outfit and defending champions,” Smith said.
“But the way we’re playing cricket at the moment there’s no reason why we can’t go there and get a result.
“We’re a very disciplined outfit, we know what we need to do. We’re not here to make up the numbers.
“We’re here to challenge for the title and that’s what we want to do. The way we’re going about our cricket at the moment we’re showing that.”
Both sides enter the game on the back of disappointing T20 Blast performances on Friday night, and the Roses rivals will square off in that competition at Old Trafford next Friday.
It’s an exciting week for county cricket as this flagship contest steeped in history takes centre stage.
Yorkshire need to start piling on the runs a bit and much onus for that falls on opener Adam Lyth. The left-hander has notched a couple of centuries but that has been combined with scores of 15, 8, 19, 0, 4, 13, 18 and 11.
That inconsistency is hampering Yorkshire and they will be looking to Lyth, who is still fighting to regain his England place, to deliver solid totals on a more regular basis.
Tom Smith played his first Championship game for over a year against Surrey last weekend and it was a successful return from a serious back injury.
Picked to open the batting, he registered a gritty half-century and managed to get a few overs under his belt as well. As one of the more experienced players in a young Lancashire side, the all-rounder will be key to their chances at Headingley.
Smith has a strong record against Yorkshire and Giles will hope for that run to continue this week.
Tim Bresnan has made a timely return from injury and has been included in Yorkshire’s squad, replacing James Wainman. Karl Carver also drops out as Jason Gillespie has named a 12-man squad.
Liam Plunkett and Adil Rashid will hope to press their England claims while seamer Steven Patterson needs just two wickets to reach 300 in first-class cricket.
Yorkshire squad: Andrew Gale (captain), Gary Ballance, Tim Bresnan, Jack Brooks, Andy Hodd (wicket-keeper), Jack Leaning, Alex Lees, Adam Lyth, Steven Patterson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Will Rhodes
Lancashire are unlikely to make any changes from their victory over Surrey, meaning Smith will continue to keep out Karl Brown at the top of the order. Jos Buttler is available again after returning from the IPL, but Giles has made the decision to give him a rest, so Alex Davies will continue as keeper.
Lancashire squad: Steven Croft (captain), Tom Bailey, Karl Brown, Alex Davies (wicket-keeper), Haseeb Hameed, Kyle Jarvis, Simon Kerrigan, Liam Livingstone, Alviro Petersen, Luke Procter, Tom Smith, Neil Wagner
Weather and Conditions
After a sunny first couple of days, days three and four could be hit by heavy showers. Conditions vary at Headingley, with cloud cover tipping the balance in favour of the bowling side while batsmen can flourish under sunny skies in Yorkshire.
Date: 29th May – 1st June
Umpires: Michael Burns & Peter Hartley
Odds: Yorkshire 8/15, Lancashire 6/4