Every great story has a subplot. This week, Yorkshire v Glamorgan, sees the opening chapter of the White Rose’s bid for LV= Insurance County Championship glory. The subplot? Joe Root versus his younger brother Billy.
Of course, this isn’t something new at professional level. The two brothers from Sheffield met in a one-day Cup clash at Trent Bridge when batsman Billy was a Nottinghamshire player.
On that occasion, Yorkshire came out on top, with Joe hitting an unbeaten 75 in pursuit of a 186 target. He even hit Billy’s off-spin for six.
But this will be the first time they have faced each other in first-class cricket, assuming 28-year-old Billy takes his place, as expected in the Glamorgan side at Emerald Headingley on Thursday morning (11am).
Joe Root training at Emerald Headingley
Both brothers came through the Yorkshire age-groups as teenagers. However, left-handed batsman Billy played his last second-team game in 2013 and had to forge his path elsewhere.
And he has done it pretty well, though without gaining the same notoriety as England Test captain Joe, aged 30.
Billy has scored five hundreds in 33 first-class appearances – three for Glamorgan, including a career best 229 in a Championship clash with Northamptonshire in 2019.
“It will be an interesting battle, that’s for sure. But I obviously hope Joe comes out on top,” said Yorkshire’s director of cricket Martyn Moxon.
“There’s no doubt Billy is a talented player who has done well recently, particularly at Glamorgan. And we will need to get him out early because he can do some damage if not.”
While Joe made his Yorkshire first-team debut in 2009, in a one-day fixture against Essex, Billy’s first-class debut came six years later for Leeds/Bradford MCC Universities.
His maiden first-team appearance for a county came for Nottinghamshire in early 2017.
That aforementioned meeting with Joe at Trent Bridge was in only his second match as a professional, two days after his debut.
“Players develop at different stages and mature on different timescales,” added Moxon.
“Billy has always had natural talent, but making it at this level and higher is about more than just that. It’s the mental side of the game, making good decisions, having that balance between attack and defence.
“That comes with maturity and playing games, and he seems to have worked all of that out now and has gone on to post some big scores of late.
“I just hope he doesn’t do it this week!”
This will be the first time Yorkshire have played Glamorgan in Championship cricket since 2012, the first year of Jason Gillespie’s coaching tenure when promotion from Division Two was achieved.
The Welsh county finished bottom of last season’s Central Group in the shortened Bob Willis Trophy, going winless in five matches.
They will field Ireland’s captain Andrew Balbirnie as their overseas player for the first month of the season. Australian duo Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser will then join the county to fill the two overseas berths in four-day cricket.
Yorkshire coach Andrew Gale said: “They will be a good team. I think they would be a better team had they had the two overseas players coming over in Labuschagne and Neser.
“We haven’t seen them for a long time, but we’ve looked into their players.
“We certainly won’t be going out in that first game thinking, ‘We’re playing a weak Glamorgan team’. They have got some decent players.
“But we know that if we perform the way we can do at Headingley, we’ll get the job done.”
Gary Ballance is unavailable having suffered from concussion following a freak accident in training. It is hoped that the left-hander will return for the second LV= Insurance County Championship match against Kent at Canterbury.
The opening game comes too soon for Jordan Thompson, who has now returned to training after suffering from a calf tear this winter. It is hoped the all-rounder will be available selection in the coming weeks.
Matthew Waite picked up a side strain whilst bowling in the final friendly against Durham MCCU and is currently being assessed by the Club’s medical team.
Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan are unavailable, as the pair prepare to compete in the Indian Premier League.
12-man squad to face Glamorgan at Emerald Headingley
Steve Patterson (Captain)
Jonny Tattersall (Wicketkeeper)
The opposition – Glamorgan
Coach: Matthew Maynard
Captain: Chris Cooke
2020 Leading Runscorer: Chris Cooke (294, 32.66)
Glamorgan's Dan Douthwaite
2020 Leading Wicket Taker: Dan Douthwaite (14, 33.78)
Overseas Players: Andy Balbirne (Ireland – April); Marnus Labuschagne (Australia – May until end of season), Michael Neser (Australia – May until end of season).
Key man: Marnus Labuschagne – The Australian brings his unorthodox style back to Glamorgan where his ascent to one of the world’s most prolific batsman gathered pace two summers ago.
Flies under the radar: Dan Douthwaite – The 24-year-old was Glamorgan’s leading wicket-taker in the Bob Willis Trophy and with veteran all-rounder Graham Wagg leaving the club he has the opportunity and potential to make another step forward in his career.
Best Play Under 24: Callum Taylor – Confirmed his promise with a debut first-class century against Northants last summer. Born in Newport, although he grew up in Queensland, he bowls handy off-spin to mark him as a talent to watch.
The Season Ahead: The group-stage format has ensured Glamorgan start the summer with the opportunity to win the County Championship title for the first time in 15 years.
They have, however, been handed a tough group in which every other county, aside from Sussex, would have been in Division One but for the pandemic.
The delayed arrival Marnus Labuschagne and Michael Neser is not ideal, but when they do arrive Glamorgan have a strong argument for the best international signings in the County Championship.
The cornerstone of their ambition will be in the likes of David Lloyd, who returns to the top of the order after an injury-riddled 2020. Lloyd adds stability to a batting order that struggled for first-innings runs last term and will lean on the consistency of Chris Cooke, Billy Root and Nick Selman in addition to the star dust of Labuschagne.
Seamer Michael Hogan will turn 40 this year but has shown in the pre-season he remains a threat in an attack that will be without Marchant de Lange (Somerset) and Graham Wagg (Shropshire).
• This will be Glamorgan’s first visit to Emerald Headingley for a Championship match for nine years and only their fourth this century.
• Only Worcestershire (no wins in 13 visits) have a worse record than Glamorgan (one win in 14 visits) in the Championship at Headingley.
• Glamorgan’s highest total against Yorkshire, home or away, is 498 at Headingley in 1999 but Yorkshire have three times passed 500 in this series, its highest being 580 for nine declared at Scarborough in 2001. Its highest at Headingley is 429 for seven declared in 1922.
• Yorkshire’s lowest total against Glamorgan at Headingley is 140, made in 1999, but the Welsh county’s is 55 in 1964. It made three scores lower than this against Yorkshire, the lowest being 48 at Cardiff (Arms Park) in 1924. Yorkshire’s lowest in this series is 83 at Sheffield (Bramall Lane) in 1946.
• There have been only two double centuries in this series – both scored in 1996 at Cardiff (Sophia Gardens) in 1996. Martyn Moxon made 213 for Yorkshire and Hugh Morris scored 202 not out for Glamorgan. The highest individual scores at Headingley are 186 by Matthew Maynard for Glamorgan in 1999 and 173 by Phil Jaques for Yorkshire in 2004.
• A Glamorgan bowler has the best innings figures in this series. Jim Pressdee took nine for 43 at Swansea in 1965, Yorkshire’s Hedley Verity having figures of nine for 60 on the same ground in 1930. At Headingley the best figures are six for 21 by Johnny Wardle for Yorkshire in 1951 and five for 53 by Glamorgan’s Steve Watkin in 1989.
• Emmott Robinson scored a century and took five wickets in an innings for Yorkshire at Swansea in 1926 but no Glamorgan player has achieved the same feat in this series.
How to follow
A multi-camera live stream will be available for each days play via www.yorkshireccc.com, accompanied by BBC commentary. You can also keep up to date with proceedings via the match blog on the website, and the clips available via the match centre. Highlights will also be available shortly following each days play.