Roses washout but Lyth starts to blossom

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The Independent Online

As rain washed out the opening day of the 250th Roses match at Headingley yesterday, no player felt the frustration more keenly than the Yorkshire batsman Adam Lyth, whose prolific form has been a major factor in his county's position at the top of the Division One table in the County Championship.

The 22-year-old left-hander began the contest against Lancashire needing only 147 to join the likes of W G Grace, Wally Hammond and Don Bradman in completing 1,000 first-class runs by the end of May.

There have been numerous contenders to reach this milestone but only eight succeeded, Bradman doing it twice for the touring Australians. The last to do so was Graeme Hick in 1988 and no English-born player has been added to the list since Bill Edrich in 1938. Lyth, from Whitby, who has benefited from the earliest start to an English season on record, would be the first Yorkshireman.

"A few people have told me that Graeme Hick was the last to do it," Lyth said. "Hopefully I can get over the line but if I don't in this game it won't be the end of the world. I'd like to get to 1,000, which is something every batsman wants to do, but there are eight more games after this one."

Yorkshire have been expecting Lyth's strokeplaying talents to flourish since he made his debut in 2006, but his career has been a slow burner. His acceleration this season follows a 2009 campaign in which he lost his place. He stepped aside when Michael Vaughan returned to county duty, and even after the former England captain retired, Lyth found the wicketkeeper-batsman Jonathan Bairstow barring his way.

This year's run of scores, including 142 and 93 against Somerset, followed by 133 and 98 against Hampshire, comes after Yorkshire decided to team him with Joe Sayers at the top of the order under the new captain, Andrew Gale. "Andrew told me on pre-season in Barbados that he wanted to open with me," Lyth said, "and that Jacques [Rudolph] would bat at No 4, Mags [Anthony McGrath] would bat No 3 and Andrew himself would bat No 5.

"It was tough last season to be out of the side but this has given me a massive confidence boost and that's shown in the first seven Championship games. I can't put my form down to doing anything very different. I have just been leaving the ball well and trusting my natural instinct.

"I have got all the shots. It is just that a couple of years ago I might have gone at a few early doors and got a nick. I now know how to leave the ball and cash in on width or flick off the legs when the ball is straight. Talking to experienced players like Rudolph and McGrath, they said leaving well was the key. Let the bowlers come to you rather than go at the ball.

"Hopefully I have got a bit of luck with me. When I have nicked one it has gone over the fielder's head or dropped short."

Lyth's form has attracted the attention of the England selectors, although he does not expect to add full honours to his age-group appearances just yet. "I'm not getting too carried away," he said. "I just want to keep scoring runs for Yorkshire. Then, you just never know."