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Ben Stokes, Joe Root set to return to action in County Championship

Joe Root and Ben Stokes, England’s past and present Test captains, will both return to action for the first time this season in the latest round of LV= County Championship matches on Thursday.

Root, who stood down last month during an extended break following England’s series loss in the Caribbean, has been named in a 14-man squad for Yorkshire’s trip to Essex, where he is set to come up against his own predecessor as Test captain, Alastair Cook, as well as Essex’s attack-leading spinner, Simon Harmer – a player he can expect to face again at Test level this summer following Harmer’s successful return to the South Africa set-up.

Stokes, meanwhile, has been named in Durham’s squad for their trip to face Worcestershire at New Road, having sat out the opening rounds of the season while managing a knee injury that he aggravated while bowling 99 overs during the three Tests against West Indies – the heaviest workload among England’s seamers.

He was officially unveiled as England’s 81st Test captain during a round of media interviews at Chester-le-Street on Tuesday, during which he confirmed that he would lean on Root’s support as he gets to grips with his new responsibilities.

“Joe will be a senior player, he is a senior player in this group, and he always will be going forward,” Stokes said. “He will always be someone that I look to for advice, he’ll always be someone that players will turn to and look to for advice as well, because he’s captained the team for six years so it’d be stupid not to consider him as someone to go and ask for advice from.”

Root himself returned to training last week, linking up with Yorkshire’s new batting coach, Ali Maiden, at Headingley during Yorkshire’s last home Championship game against Kent. After thriving with the bat in the Caribbean, with centuries in each of the two drawn Tests in Antigua and Barbados, Root may find Essex’s conditions similarly conducive to run-scoring after a pair of stalemates to open the season at Chelmsford.

Maiden, who joined the club in February as an assistant to the new head coach, Ottis Gibson, told Yorkshire’s club website that he was already relishing the chance to work with Root, a man who was last month named as Wisden’s Leading Cricketer in the World for 2021, following his immense haul of 1708 runs at 61.00 in 15 Tests.

“I had one session with Joe last week, and he was amazing really,” Maiden said. “I threw at him for an hour and we chatted about his batting. Then we had a competition, which he set, and the loser had to make a brew for the other person.

“It was first to 10. If he gets one wrong or miscues one, I get a point. If he executes his shot correctly, he gets the point. He smashed me. I lost, and we sat together for about an hour again and chatted about batting. He was fantastic and just as enthusiastic about it as I was. He’s a legendary bloke and a legendary player.”

Root’s mindset will nevertheless be under close scrutiny in the wake of his England resignation, which came after he had indicated a willingness to carry on in the role, in spite of a run of results – one win in 17 Tests – that has left England with their lowest ICC ranking since 1995.

His support for his friend, Stokes, will be unequivocal, however. After the appointment was confirmed, Root tweeted a picture of the pair in a post-match embrace, with the message: “Always got each other’s backs. Congratulations mate, I’ll be right with you every step of the way.”

Yorkshire are set to be without their international pair of fast bowlers, Pakistan’s Haris Rauf – who sustained a niggle during the Kent fixture – and Matt Fisher, who debuted in the Caribbean but has been sidelined for four weeks with a stress reaction in his back. Essex, meanwhile, will once again be missing Dan Lawrence following his hamstring strain.

Neither James Anderson nor Saqib Mahmood will feature this week for Lancashire, as they take on Warwickshire at Emirates Old Trafford. Anderson is rested after back-to-back games while Mahmood is undergoing treatment after a shoulder injury he suffered over the winter. Chris Woakes might return next week after injury, but Ben Foakes is back for Surrey after missing the draw in Bristol with a minor back injury.

Ollie Robinson, the England seamer who missed all three Tests in the Caribbean following a back spasm, is also expected to make his first appearance since the Hobart Test in January, after being named in Sussex’s squad for their home fixture against Middlesex. That match will also be notable for the potential clash between the Pakistani pairing of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Rizwan.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket


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