TO judge by the merry-go-round that has seen Alastair Cook have 12 different opening partners since Andrew Strauss retired, it will soon be Adam Lyth’s turn to stride out with Cook again in Test cricket.
Last week, Keaton Jennings was back in the poisoned hot-seat as he partnered Cook in the Headingley Test, displaying promise – but still not permanence – during an enticingly attractive innings of 29.
I feel I’ve got the game to play Test cricket and one-day cricket for England, but obviously it’s going to be mighty tough to get into that one-day sideAdam Lyth
Lyth, who played the last of his seven Tests in 2015, is at least as good as anyone vying to open the batting with Cook and, quite possibly, the best of the lot, even though he has struggled for runs in this year’s County Championship, as many have on the challenging early-season pitches.
But although Lyth earned his Three Lions on the back of his form in red-ball, he still harbours hopes not only of returning to Test level, but also of representing his country for the first time in white-ball, an aspiration enhanced by some eye-catching performances during the last two years in particular.
Since the start of 2016, just two batsmen (Jonathan Trott and Sam Hain) have scored more One-Day Cup hundreds than Lyth’s four, while his English record T20 innings of 161 last year against Northants – today’s opponents as Yorkshire target the win that would clinch a One-Day Cup quarter-final play-off – has only twice been bettered anywhere in the world.
This is a man who fits the bill of the multi-format player as well as anyone not presently representing his country, a man who goes into today’s match at Emerald Headingley on the back of a one-day career-best 144 in Tuesday’s triumph against Lancashire at Old Trafford.
“I feel I’ve got the game to play Test cricket and one-day cricket for England, but obviously it’s going to be mighty tough to get into that one-day side with the players they’ve got at the moment,” said Lyth.
“But all I can do is score runs and score big hundreds and win games for Yorkshire, and, hopefully, I’ll get another chance to play for my country.
“To put on an England shirt in any format is a dream come true as far as I’m concerned, and I’m very proud to have had the opportunity to do that.
“Hopefully, I can do it again but I’ve got to keep working hard and then you never know.”
It was hard to watch Lyth score his 144 against Lancashire, or his innings of 132 not out against Leicestershire earlier in this year’s One-Day Cup tournament, and not reflect that here is a man who should have had more international recognition than has come his way.
In the past, it was sometimes said of Lyth that he scored the most brilliant 30s and 40s in the business, only to get out when seemingly on course for a sizeable score.
But, having turned 30 years old last autumn, there is an increasing maturity about him and the sense of a man who can instinctively adapt to any situation.
“In white-ball stuff, I feel like I’m hitting the ball extremely well,” he said. “I had a pretty solid white-ball season last year, too, without quite getting the big score in 50-overs, but I did all right in the Twenty20.
“Red-ball hasn’t quite gone to plan so far this season, but the wickets have been tough and, hopefully, this white-ball form I can take into my red-ball game and it will kick on my season.
“I feel good, but I don’t want to take anything for granted; there’s a hell of a lot of cricket to be played in the season, but I’m pleased with how it’s going.”
Lyth’s immediate focus is on helping Yorkshire beat a Northants team who cannot qualify for the One-Day Cup knockout stages, and who may rest key players ahead of their return to Championship action on Saturday.
It is a match that Yorkshire would expect to win nine times out of 10, particularly with England Test captain Joe Root back as he prepares for the forthcoming one-day internationals, but Lyth and his colleagues are taking nothing for granted.
“We need one more win, but Northants are a good team and we don’t want to look too far ahead,” he said.
“If we can put in a good performance, hopefully we can go a long way but we’ve got to concentrate on this match first.
“We know we can be 10-15 per cent better, particularly with the ball and in the field, and we’re working hard to achieve that.
“We’re not far off a complete game, and, if we can just be better in certain periods, we’ll steamroller teams.”
Yorkshire (from): Ballance, Bresnan, Carver, Fisher, Kohler-Cadmore, Lyth, Patterson (capt), Plunkett, Pujara, Rashid, Root, Tattersall (wkt), Willey.