ENGLAND Test captain Joe Root will be available for at least Yorkshire’s first two LV= Insurance County Championship matches of the summer, says Andrew Gale.

The White Rose coach today delivered news of a potential meeting between Joe and younger brother Billy when Glamorgan visit Emerald Headingley for the season opener on Thursday, April 8.

Joe will then travel with Yorkshire to face Kent at Canterbury the following week (April 15 to 18) before further availability will be assessed “week by week”.

Gale and the Yorkshire faithful received a double batting boost today, as Gary Ballance played a first innings since September 2019. He brought up a determined half-century on day one of the two-day friendly at Middlesex.

After missing the whole of 2020 through illness, new father Ballance batted for a little over three hours on a slow but good pitch at Merchant Taylors’ School in Northwood and hit two fours in 52 off 137 balls.

He anchored Yorkshire’s 138-5 from 60 overs. Gale commented: “It’s like having a new signing. In my eyes, in county cricket, he’s the best batter in the country.

“We know when Gary’s in form, he scores heavy runs. It’s been good to see him back around the place with a smile on his face and enjoying his cricket.

“He’s spent some valuable time at the crease today. Hopefully he will start the season really well.”

Over two days, Yorkshire’s squad are involved in two friendlies - one against Middlesex with a significant first-team presence and another against Durham at Emerald Headingley where the youngsters are on show.

The reason is that Middlesex have erected a training marquee over grass pitches, meaning any rain would not prevent outdoor practice.

Both games are taking the same course.

At Middlesex, Yorkshire batted for the first 60 overs of day one and bowled for the final 30. Middlesex will then bat for the first 60 on day two, resuming on 80-2. Jack Shutt and Harry Brook struck.

Yorkshire were 14-2, losing openers Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Will Fraine, before Ballance, Brook (25) and Tom Loten (23) contributed to a recovery against an attack including Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones.

Meanwhile, on a true but again slowish Headingley surface, Mat Pillans struck early to trap Alex Lees lbw before new Durham captain Scott Borthwick top-scored with 55 in 223-1 from 60 overs.

Yorkshire replied with 62-3 from 29.1 overs.

Will Luxton’s unbeaten 28 was the feature alongside James Wharton’s 24.

All-rounder George Hill left the field with a potential side strain midway through his seventh over during the afternoon session.