Yorkshire face a captaincy dilemma as they prepare to ease their relegation plight by avenging last week’s crushing defeat by Warwickshire.
Jacques Rudolph, who took over the reins from injured skipper Andrew Gale, has had to return to South Africa for a training camp and misses the match at Edgbaston.
The obvious answer is to put the most experienced player, Anthony McGrath, in charge. But his form deteriorated under the weight of captaincy two years ago and it has suffered even worse this season under the burden of responsibility left by Rudolph’s absence.
McGrath’s pre-season injury didn’t help, but after scoring 1,219 County Championship runs at 43.53 last year he has totalled 376 at 19.78 in ten matches this season. And his loss of form has been matched by Adam Lyth, who has declined from 1,509 runs at 52.03 to 424 at 24.94 and lost his place when Rudolph returned.
Oxford graduate Joe Sayers has been spoken of as a potential captain and was one of the few to display some traditional Yorkshire grit when he survived for 90 minutes to make 27 during the second innings debacle against Warwickshire.
Coach Martyn Moxon branded that performance as “spineless” and said his team displayed “no stomach for the fight”. This is not what is expected of players raised in the Broad Acres and they will be delighted to have Jonny Bairstow back as he has often shown that he has inherited his father David’s fighting spirit.
Bairstow, who was taken on England’s Dublin jaunt last week but did not play, is Yorkshire’s leading run-scorer in the Championship with 924 at 48.63, but Joe Root, with 807, is the only other batsman with a chance or reaching 1,000.
Yorkshire’s final match next week is at home to Somerset as they sit out the final programme, when relegation rivals Worcestershire are away to Durham.
After the dismissal for 127 last week, Moxon said: “It was our worst performance of the season. It was embarrassing from my point of view.
“We can’t hide behind the fact we’ve got a lot of young players. Take Joe Root and Gary Ballance out of the team and the rest of them have played enough cricket to have performed better. It’s a test of character now and we’ll see who’s got the character to stand up and turn it around.”
Gale, who with 769 was on course for 1,000 runs until his arm injury, added: “We’ve addressed why we haven’t bowled the tail out, why we haven’t scored enough hundreds, but putting it into practice is a different thing. We keep making the same mistakes.
“There’s not many different players from last season and we had a lot of success then. It is the second season for a lot of them and that can always be difficult. The likes of Adam Lyth, Oliver Hannon-Dalby have found it difficult but I’ve been pretty frank and honest about where the players need to improve and it’s up to them to put it right.”