Yorkshire drop Blakey after Roses wash-out

Yorkshire have dropped their wicketkeeper-batsman Richard Blakey for the first time in his senior career as they and their rivals, Surrey and Lancashire, gear up for the final five matches that will decide this year's Championship.

Yorkshire have dropped their wicketkeeper-batsman Richard Blakey for the first time in his senior career as they and their rivals, Surrey and Lancashire, gear up for the final five matches that will decide this year's Championship.

Blakey's omission from the team to play Somerset at Taunton starting tomorrow comes after the Roses match, which Yorkshire were pressing to win, was abandoned after heavy and sustained rain overnight on the last day. The Yorkshire captain, David Byas, said:"Dick's disappointed, as I knew he would be, but he knows that he hasn't given us the volume of runs we would expect. He'll get a chance to find form in the Seconds and will be back in the one-day side."

Blakey, 33, has been Yorkshire's first-choice wicketkeeper since the retirement of David Bairstow and the only time he previously lost his place was in his early days in the team when he was played only as a batsman. This year he was moved up the order in an attempt both to bolster a flimsy batting line-up and to restore his own fluency, but the experiment has had mixed success.He retains one of the best wicketkeeping records in the country.

He will be replaced at Taunton by the 21-year-old Simon Guy, from Rotherham, who made an impressive debut with both bat and gloves against Zimbabwe earlier this season. Gavin Hamilton, fit again, returns to the team and Yorkshire will field a new opening pair, Simon Widdup, aged 22, and the 20-year-old Victor Craven.

Lancashire also had better news from the treatment room. They start the first of their two matches against Surrey at The Oval tomorrow and their coach, Bobby Simpson, said: "Sourav Ganguly does have a tear in the right groin, but he is confident he will be fit to bat although he is unlikely to bowl." Mark Chilton will replace Mike Atherton and Lancashire will take their full complement of spinners, Chris Schofield, Gary Keedy and Gary Yates, to Kennington.

Although Surrey will have benefited from the inability of the Roses counties to take maximum points, the four points for a draw, plus bonus points, means Yorkshire are now second, within three points of them, level on games played with another meeting to come at Scarborough. A pitch liaison officer should book his hotel today.

CHAMPIONSHIP RUN-IN

SURREY

2 Aug Lancashire The Oval 16 Aug Derbyshire The Oval 30 Aug Yorkshire Scarborough 6 Sept Durham The Oval 13 Sept Lancashire Old Trafford

YORKSHIRE

2 Aug Somerset Taunton 16 Aug Leicestershire Leicester 30 Aug Surrey Scarborough 7 Sept Kent Canterbury 13 Sept Hampshire Southampton

LANCASHIRE

2 Aug Surrey The Oval 17 Aug Kent Old Trafford 22 Aug Leicestershire Leicester 8 Sept Somerset Old Trafford 13 Sept Surrey Old Trafford

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