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 15-18) before further availability will be assessed “week by week”.

Gale and the Yorkshire faithful received a double batting boost today, as Gary Ballance’s first innings since September 2019 also yielded 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 before Gale said: “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.

The sun shone brightly at both venues, with Gale laughing: “Who needs Barbados or South Africa when we’re baking in sunshine like this in the middle of March!”

On Root’s availability, he said: “I had a good chat with Joe at the back end of last week, and it was really positive.

“There’s obviously a hell of a lot of Championship cricket before the first Test (against New Zealand on June 2). I think there’s seven or eight games. So we have to be mindful of his workloads.

“But I can confirm he will be playing the first two games of the season, and then we’re going to take it on a week by week basis and communicate how he’s feeling, what form he’s in, how much he wants to play.

“I wouldn’t imagine he will play every game. But he’s definitely going to play the first two. We’ll take it from there.

“His runs are priceless, but to have Joe around the dressing room as well, he’s a great bloke. The lads love having him around, and he loves wearing the White Rose.”

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