NEW ZEALAND captain Kane Williamson is backing fellow countryman Jeet Raval to make an instant impact and help save Yorkshire’s season.
Raval debuts in today’s County Championship match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, replacing Williamson as overseas player, with Yorkshire having slipped back into the relegation zone after two successive home defeats.
The 29-year-old left-hander is set to open the batting with Adam Lyth after signing for the last four games of the season, with second-bottom Yorkshire one place and one point away from safety.
And after playing with Raval since they were teenagers, and most recently in New Zealand’s Test team, Williamson insisted that Yorkshire have a top performer on their hands as they look to pull clear of relegation danger.
“I know him well; he’s a really organised player and a great fella,” said Williamson, who is now resting up ahead of New Zealand’s forthcoming international commitments.
“It’s awesome that he is here to play some county cricket, and I know that he will offer to the team really well.
“His game is technically very sound and very orthodox and, in these conditions, your technique is challenged with the Dukes ball.
“It’s a challenge that he’s very much looking forward to, and I’m sure that he’ll do really well.
“We first played together in the Under-19s and, more recently, in the Test side.
“He is a very popular member of the dressing room and has got some decent leg-spin in his armoury too. He’s also a decent catcher and has been in the slips for us in New Zealand. He’s just a very good all-round package.”
It’s certainly good for him and also us in New Zealand that he’s getting this chance, as well as for Yorkshire, in that they know they have a quality batsman coming in.Kane Williamson on Jeet Raval
Raval has been training with Yorkshire for the past fortnight ahead of his first experience of county cricket. He scored 50 and 56 in a second-team match against Somerset at Taunton last week and, after the visit to Nottingham, he is available for the last three Championship fixtures at home to Lancashire and Hampshire and the trip to Worcestershire.
“It’s a great opportunity for all parties,” added Williamson.
“It’s certainly good for him and also us in New Zealand that he’s getting this chance, as well as for Yorkshire, in that they know they have a quality batsman coming in.
“To play county cricket is a great opportunity for any player.
“I personally always appreciate the opportunity to come here and learn.”
Williamson has now completed his fourth stint with Yorkshire, having also represented them in 2013, 2014 and 2016. He played 13 games this time, scoring 218 runs in three Championship fixtures at 36.33 and 280 runs in 10 Vitality Blast matches at 40.00.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it,” he reflected. “Yorkshire is a passionate club and a really great place to play your cricket.
“I enjoy the challenge because you learn from every experience that you have.
“Certainly over here, where you’re perhaps going from white-ball cricket on fairly good surfaces to some red-ball cricket where the ball is moving sideways, it can test you a lot.
“Sometimes, the wickets can be varying, and it’s great to be exposed in different ways.
“I just try to keep things very simple.
“Of course, the shorter format has opened up people’s eyes to exploring so many different shots and different options, which is exciting, but I still think that the foundations of the game are very much the same.
“And where they’re tested most is probably in red-ball cricket in this country. Personally, I believe that the longest format is the pinnacle of the game.
“It’s great to play in all the different formats, but there’s so many ebbs and flows within a red-ball game that are very subtle and challenging.”
Raval is part of a 13-man squad that does not include wicketkeeper Andrew Hodd, who was pulled out of impending retirement for last week’s match against Somerset at Headingley and top-scored with 85 in the first innings.
However, he has not been considered this time due to a flare-up of a recent lower-back injury, with Jonny Tattersall fit to resume behind the stumps following a back spasm.
There is no place for batsman Jack Leaning, who missed out as Yorkshire fell to a 224-run defeat against Somerset, which followed on from their innings defeat to Worcestershire at Scarborough.
Pace bowler Matthew Fisher is struggling with the recurrence of a toe injury, but all-rounders Tim Bresnan and Matthew Waite are back in the squad.
New signing Mat Pillans, the South African pace bowler, is also included as he awaits his first appearance, while leg-spinner Josh Poysden is hoping for a recall.