ALONG with team-mate Ryan Sidebottom, Jack Brooks has already missed three County Championship fixtures for Yorkshire this season – making it perfectly understandable that the bowling duo are desperate to make up for lost time.
Both are in contention to grace the Yorkshire ranks with their presence for the first time this season having been – by a strange coincidence – ruled out through injury for the first six weeks of the season.
For Sidebottom in particular, who retires at the end of this season, time is perhaps slightly more precious as he attempts to help Yorkshire regain the four-day crown they won so convincingly in 2014 and 2015 before finally being forced to surrender their title to Middlesex in such dramatic fashion at Lord’s last September.
But Brooks, sidelined with a calf injury, is equally desperate to make his return to the Yorkshire line-up with his enforced absence not something he admits has been easy to adapt to.
“It’s been a really frustrating time – I don’t deal with not playing at the best of times, and I’m not used to being out,” said Brooks.
“I have a pretty good injury record so it’s been pretty frustrating watching the guys play without me. But I’ve had a target in my mind since I did get injured that this game at Lancashire was always the date I’d be looking to get back for.
“Now it’s just down to whether they deem me fit enough to play or not. But I’m pretty confident – I’ve trained well and played in the 2nds for a couple of weeks and got some rhythm back so I’m pretty hopeful.”
It’s been a solid if unspectacular start to Yorkshire’s four-day campaign so far, an opening round defeat at home to Hampshire being followed by a handsome win inside three days at Edgbaston against a strangely out-of-sorts Warwickshire side containing the likes of former England stars Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell.
A swift rematch with Hampshire on the south coast then produced a draw – thanks largely to captain Gary Ballance’s heroics with the bat when he followed up a first-innings century with an unbeaten 203 in his side’s second innings after they had been asked to follow on.
It leaves Yorkshire in fourth place in the table heading to Manchester to take on an unbeaten Lancashire side sitting five points ahead of them in second place having won one and drawn two so far.
Yorkshire have also been denied the services of a third quality seamer in Liam Plunkett, out of contention through a combination of injury and call-ups for England’s limited overs squad.
Most county teams would struggle to deal with the loss of just one quality operator, but Yorkshire have somehow found a way to remain competitive in the opening weeks despite missing three. A large reason for that has been the sensational form of Ben Coad, who has exploded on to the scene since being promoted from the fringes for the opening game against Hampshire.
Coad was a rare glimmer of light in the four-wicket defeat at Headingley, taking 6-37 in Hampshire’s first innings, although better was to come a week later when two five-wicket hauls gave him his first 10-wicket return in a first-class match.
Four more wickets followed in the draw at Southampton meaning the Harrogate-born seamer has a staggering early average of just 13.90.
Such form means that Brooks is more than likely going to be playing alongside Coad at Old Trafford should he get the nod to return to action today and the 32-year-old has been hugely impressed by the way the 23-year-old has taken his chance.
“With a couple of bowlers being out somebody else gets a chance and Coady has taken his brilliantly,” added Brooks.
“It has been fantastic to see, to be honest, one of the young lads coming in and having an impact in the team. We’re not really a signing club and it is brilliant when you can bring players like that through. Coady has been around the first team squad for a while and he’s obviously had a strong winter and when he’s been given his chance he’s taken it.
“And that is key because we have a slightly ageing bowling attack and with Siddy retiring other guys are going to get chances over the next year or two. Coady has proved to the other lads it can be done and it is helping to inspire everyone else in the squad, not just the younger lads – it gives everyone a lift.”
Yorkshire squad to face Lancashire: Ballance (Capt), Bresnan, Brooks, Carver, Coad, Fisher, Handscomb, Hodd (wkt), Leaning, Lees, Lyth, Patterson, Rafiq, Sidebottom.