Yorkshire start the season as firm favourites to bounce straight back into Division One, while Leicestershire will be hoping for improved fortunes following a winless 2022 in the Championship. Clearly a trip to Headingley might not have been what they were hoping for first time out.
There have been several changes in the Yorkshire squad with Shan Masood moving over from Derbyshire and Ben Mike from this week’s opponents Leicestershire. Masood has taken over as captain in all formats and if he is as proficient with the bat as he was last year, Yorkshire supporters will be well satisfied. Unfortunately his return to form may be a double edged sword as he is stuck in Pakistan awaiting the announcement of their one day squad to face New Zealand. They have bolstered their seam attack with the signings of Matt Milnes from Kent, Ben Mike from Leicestershire and Australian Mickey Edwards, who holds a British passport. Milnes is hoping to be fully recovered from the stress fracture of his back suffered at the end of last season. They had also hoped to have the services of Neil Wagner, but this has been halted by injury and are now looking to sign Pakistani batter Saud Shakeel. Leicestershire have the services of Peter Handscomb for the first six rounds of matches after he withdrew from Australia A’s tour to New Zealand to focus on securing a place in the Australian Ashes squad. They have retained the services of South African all-rounder Wiaan Mulder, who improved through the season after a slow start and Ajinkya Rahane will come in when Handscomb moves on. Sol Budinger moved over from Nottinghamshire at the tail end of last season, and they have also signed 29-year-old seam bowler Matt Salisbury from Durham.
Undoubtedly it has been a turbulent time at Yorkshire, but they will be looking forward now with Ottis Gibson and Darren Gough at the helm. They have prepared well, firstly with a tour to Cape Town where they played Warwickshire, Northamptonshire and the Netherlands in a variety of formats, with less familiar names such as Matthew Revis and Fin Bean pushing their cases for a starting place. Back home they have had time in the middle against Durham and Leeds/Bradford UCCE, with Dom Bess and Bean both making centuries in the latter game. Ben Coad has also found rhythm early, taking 5/17. Waiting in the wings are Yorkshire’s England players, although Joe Root, Adil Rashid and Harry Brook and are in the IPL and at the moment Jonny Bairstow is not due back playing until May. That leaves Dawid Malan who was not given a full England contract at the end of last year and may be focussing now on gaining a spot in England’s World Cup squad.
Leicestershire have not had quite the same amount of preparation, with their opening game against Leeds/Bradford UCCE washed out. They managed 94 overs against Northamptonshire in a planned two day game, Budinger and new Championship captain Lewis Hill making half centuries. Against Nottinghamshire they also managed a day’s play, Budinger and Rehan Ahmed making undefeated forties. In neither game did a Leicestershire bowler take more than one wicket.
Yorkshire will likely have a mix of youth and experience in their batting order, with Adam Lyth probably opening with Bean. Malan would slot into the middle order with youngsters George Hill, James Wharton and Revis alongside wicket keeper Jonathan Tattersall. They have plenty of experience in their bowling line up, with the likes of Coad, Jordan Thompson, Matt Fisher when recovered from his broken metacarpal, Milnes, Mike, and Edwards able to join off-spinner Dom Bess in the attack.
Leicestershire do not have quite the wealth of riches of their opponents, but in Rishi Patel they have an opener who looks capable of scoring plenty of runs, but is yet to deliver. He will be joined by Budinger at the top of the order. Lewis Hill has taken over the Championship captaincy and he will be joined in the middle order by Louis Kimber, Peter Handscomb, Colin Ackerman and Wiaan Mulder. It will be interesting to see if Kimber might take the gloves, given the fallibilities shown last season by Harry Swindells. Chris Wright will be leading the attack, backed up by Mulder and two from Salisbury, Ed Barnes and left armer, Michael Finan. The interesting selection dilemma is in the spin department. They have last year’s captain Callum Parkinson as well as Rehan Ahmed, back from his recent England appearances. It seems unlikely they will play both and it may be that Ahmed gets the nod as Parkinson has been struggling with a side strain.
Adam Lyth has an important role at the top of the order, given the absence of other experienced members of the Yorkshire batting line-up. The 35-year-old made 790 runs at 32.91 in the Championship last season, and he will be hoping for a greater return against Division Two attacks.
Sol Budinger moved across from Nottinghamshire towards the end of last season, scoring a half century in his first innings. He is an exciting prospect who was used primarily as a white ball batter by Nottinghamshire. It will be interesting to see how he fares at the top of the order against the moving red ball.
Malan is available, while Tattersall, who has been captaining in Masood’s absence, has injured his little finger, but is said to be fit to play.
Yorkshire squad: TBC
Leicestershire have announced that Parkinson will travel to Leeds despite his side injury. There do not appear to be any other injury concerns.
Leicestershire squad: TBC
Weather and Conditions
A damp Thursday will be replaced by a fine Bank Holiday weekend in Leeds.
The damp conditions will undoubtedly give help to the seam bowlers and the expectation will be for the captain winning the toss to want a bowl.
Date: 6th April 2023
Ground: Headingley, Leeds