Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Yorkshire v Leicestershire

Vitality County Championship Match Preview: Yorkshire v Leicestershire

A rerun of the opening fixture of the 2023 season, but can Leicestershire produce another shock?

Leicestershire travelled to Headingley for the opening round of last year’s Championship and pulled off a surprise win, chasing down 389. Rishi Patel scored a century as he started on a breakthrough season, while Colin Ackerman, who has now moved to Durham, made 139 runs in the match.

Ackerman’s departure is a big loss, with no like-for-like replacement, meaning a lot will rest on their two Australian imports. Peter Handscomb has just finished as Victoria’s top run scorer in the Sheffield Shield and Marcus Harris has been drafted in as a last minute replacement for Will Pucovski, out with concussion. Harris has had a couple of successful seasons with Gloucestershire and will be covering Wiaan Mulder’s delayed arrival.

Leicestershire have not had the luxury of a preseason tour, making do with four days in Cyprus. Unfortunately a three day warm up game against Leeds/Bradford UCCE was washed out leaving a match against Warwickshire where Sol Budinger, Patel, Louis Kimber and Rehan Ahmed all made half centuries. Budinger opened in this game, as he did for much of last season without success, but Harris will likely join Patel at the top of the order, Handscomb coming in at three. Lewis Hill, Kimber and Ben Cox are the probable middle order.

The seam attack will be led by Chris Wright, whose intended move to Sussex last summer did not materialize. He will be backed up by Matt Salisbury, Tom Scriven and Scott Currie (on loan from Hampshire). Scriven has made the most of his move from Hampshire, taking 39 wickets at 23.87 last summer. Other seam options include Ben Mike, back from a brief stint at Yorkshire and the youngster Josh Hull. Rehan Ahmed will be the spin choice, although he contributed more with the bat than the ball in 2023.

Yorkshire have been enjoying the sun in Abu Dhabi, playing warm up games against Warwickshire and Somerset and had a three day game against Leeds/Bradford UCCE in the slightly cooler temperatures of Headingley. Unfortunately only 46.3 overs of play were possible throughout the match, George Hill and Finlay Bean both making half centuries.

Head coach, Ottis Gibson has stated that Harry Brook will be available for the first five Championship games, while Joe Root will play five of the first seven matches, but not be available until the next round. Despite his absence from the game since before Christmas, Brook struck 74 not out off just 42 balls in a warm up game against Durham this week. The other internationals on the books are unavailable, with Dawid Malan pulling out of red ball cricket, while Jonny Bairstow is playing in the IPL. With Adam Lyth and Finlay Bean at the top of the order and Shan Masood joining Brook in the middle order, there will be few stronger batting line ups in either Division. Masood’s commitment to Yorkshire had been thrown into some confusion following his replacement of Babar Azam as Pakistan Test captain, but Pakistan do not have any Test matches now until August and he should be available until then. Hill, James Wharton and wicket keeper Jonny Tattersall will complete the batting line up with Matthew Revis alongside Hill adding to the bowling options. Seam is likely to be the favoured form of attack, with Matthew Fisher, Ben Coad and Jordan Thompson the likely starters, but with Matt Milnes and Mickey Edwards also available. There are also spin options in the form of newly signed Dan Moriarty alongside Dom Bess. Moriarty could start following 3/47 against Durham this week.

Off the field Yorkshire are still suffering the fallout from the Azeem Rafiq episode, but it seems unlikely that this will be able to distract the players sufficiently for them not to get the upper hand against the visitors. Leicestershire are also handicapped by their lack of match practice.

Yorkshire look clear title favourites with the rest battling for the second promotion spot. However this is Yorkshire so who knows what will happen next?

Key players:

Nothing breeds confidence in a team like top order runs and given the likely bowler friendly conditions, the side that can get them will be well on top. In Adam Lyth Yorkshire have someone who has delivered year in, year out and if anyone can grind out some runs it will be him.

Another opening batter, Rishi Patel finally delivered the runs for his county in 2023 that he has always looked capable of. At the other end of his career to Lyth, he will be keen to build on last year’s performances and push his name forward for Lions consideration. To that end he is scoring his runs at good pace and has also had success in the Blast. The concern for Leicestershire will be whether he feels that he needs to be playing in Division One to fulfil that ambition, but he signed a contract last summer for another two years.

Team News:

There is no news of any Yorkshire injury problems so Gibson should be able to field a very strong XI.

Yorkshire squad (probable): Shan Masood (c), Finlay Bean, Harry Brook, Ben Coad, Mickey Edwards, Matthew Fisher, George Hill, Adam Lyth, Shan Masoos, Matt Milnes, Dan Moriarty, Matthew Revis, Jonathan Tattersall (wk), Jordan Thompson, James Wharton

Again, there is no news of any Leicestershire injury problems.

Leicestershire squad (probable): Lewis Hill (c), Rehan Ahmed, Sol Budinger, Ben Cox (wk), Scott Currie, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Harris, Louis Kimber, Ben Mike, Rishi Patel, Matt Salisbury, Tom Scriven, Chris Wright

Weather and Conditions

The current forecast is for some rain on the first two days and then clearing.

There should be enough in the conditions for the bowlers to keep the batters on their toes.

Date: 5th April 2024

Time: 11:00

Ground: Headingley


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