YORKSHIRE coach Jason Gillespie is going to have one heck of a selection headache this weekend after a positive day for Yorkshire on and off the field.
As Gary Ballance scored an unbeaten 117 to help the White Rose close day one of their LV= County Championship match against Northamptonshire at Headingley on 328-7, England batsman Joe Root continued his recovery from a broken thumb.
If Root comes through a second XI appearance against Lancashire at Northop Hall, starting tomorrow, he will almost certainly play in Sunday’s Championship match against Middlesex at Lord’s.
And that leaves Gillespie with a problem at the top of his batting order.
Assuming Root opens the batting, which Andrew Gale said he would do in pre-season, then Gillespie will have to leave out one of Alex Lees or Adam Lyth.
Lyth has scored runs in previous matches against Leeds/Bradford MCCU and Somerset, while Lees impressed for 90 despite offering chances on 50 and 51.
He and Ballance shared 156 for the fourth wicket after Yorkshire had slipped to 57-3 just after lunch following Gale’s decision to bat first.
“It’s a great (selection) problem to have, absolutely,” said Gillespie, who also gave his backing to England’s expected move to appoint his good mate Paul Farbrace as their new assistant coach to Peter Moores.
“Mind you, I’m probably going to have a few sleepless nights, there’s no doubt about that. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Root spent 15 to 20 minutes at lunch catching balls on the outfield with director of cricket Martyn Moxon, demonstrating no ill-effects following his lay-off since early March.
“Joe’s absolutely fine,” confirmed Gillespie. “He’s going to be playing in the second-team game against Lancashire. He’ll get the chance to have a knock, and hopefully he’ll get through that so he can get back involved in the first team.”
Yorkshire were in a sticky situation as they lost Lyth, Kane Williamson and Gale cheaply.
New ball bowler Mohammad Azharullah, who played league cricket in Yorkshire before moving to Wantage Road last year, took two of those wickets with significant swing on offer.
Canny seamer Andrew Hall was the pick of the visiting bowlers with 3-72 from 20 overs.
Six of the seven wickets fell lbw, but Ballance’s 20th first-class hundred was chanceless.
This was his fourth in his last four first-class matches for Yorkshire dating back to the end of last season. He hit 18 fours and a six in 188 balls. Incredibly, in his last seven first-class innings for Yorkshire, he has scored 646 runs at an average of 129.2.
It is no surprise that Gillespie is backing Ballance to be part of Moores’ first England team for the Sri Lanka Test series, starting June 12.
"He's currently in the Test side, and his form has been very strong thus far in the domestic season here. I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be in,” added Gillespie.
"Gary's got a real presence at the crease. He played the situation very well, but I think he plays situations very well in all forms of the game. He certainly showed his class.”
Ballance and Ryan Sidebottom will resume on day two with the immediate task of getting a fourth batting point for passing 350.
LV= County Championship
Yorkshire v Northamptonshire
at Headingley Carnegie
(Yorkshire won toss)
Yorkshire First Innings
A Lyth c Murphy b Azharullah 11
A Z Lees lbw b Hall 90
K S Williamson lbw b Hall 3
A W Gale lbw b Azharullah 13
G S Ballance not out 117
A U Rashid lbw b Crook 33
A J Hodd lbw b Chambers 21
L E Plunkett lbw b Hall 11
R J Sidebottom not out 4
Extras (b8 lb9 nb8) 25
Total 7 wkts (92 overs) 328
Fall: 1-15 2-21 3-57 4-213 5-275 6-309 7-324.
Bowling: Chambers 16-3-59-1, Azharullah 19-6-59-2, Hall 20-3-72-3, Crook 19-1-73-1, Middlebrook 15-6-32-0, Spriegel 3-0-16-0.