By Paul Jones
Billy Root admits it will be more than a routine season opener when he faces brother and England captain Joe on Thursday.
The Glamorgan all-rounder will take on his big brother at Headingly as the Welsh County begin their County Championship campaign at the home of the England batsman.
“We both will say this is just another game of County Championship cricket and there is a job to be done which is true, but there is a little bit more on it for us personally,” said Root junior, who, at 28 is two years younger than Joe.
“First and foremost, it will be nice to see Joe. The last time I saw him was September and he has since been away with England in Sri Lanka and India.
“But while it will be nice to play against Joe, this is not about us. This is a game between Yorkshire and Glamorgan, who we will be representing.
“I am just so proud of the Glamorgan boys for the hard work they’ve put in this winter and everyone is raring to go.”
“Not many of the Glamorgan lads will have played a County Championship game at Headingley and it is a great chance for us to make a good start.
“It’s an exciting time of the year for everyone with the championship coming back around, especially this year with last summer being a short season.
“The boys are in good shape and everybody’s just ready to get going now. It’s looking very exciting for us, especially after the first couple of games outside.”
All 18 first-class sides get their campaigns underway on Thursday, each with dreams of winning red-ball silverware in a tweaked structure for 2021.
The County Championship was not staged in 2020 with the truncated Bob Willis Trophy held in its place amid the coronavirus pandemic but the established tournament returns this summer.
The three-group structure from last year’s Bob Willis Trophy has been retained but with some tweaks.
Last year’s groups were regional so as to avoid heavy travel during the coronavirus pandemic, whereas this season the sides have been separated into three initial seeded pools of six, with results from the 2019 County Championship and 2020 Bob Willis Trophy taken into account.
Derby matches have been accommodated where possible, with the ECB saying that is to “ensure that county members and supporters can look forward to some of county cricket’s oldest rivalries resuming home and away next summer”.
Glamorgan are in Group 3 – alongside Yorkshire. Kent, Lancashire, Northamptonshire and Sussex.
Each side will play the others in their pool home and away in a total of 10 matches.
The top two sides from each group will then advance to Division One, with the third and fourth-placed teams moving into Division Two and the fifth and sixth-placed teams going into Division Three.
Each county will then play a further four matches. They will not play the side they have already faced twice in the pool stage for a third time. Instead, the points accrued from those matches will be carried over.
The side who tops Division One will be crowned County Champions. They will then play the side who finishes second in a five-day final in the last week of September, with the winners of that game claiming the Bob Willis Trophy.
Glamorgan head coach Matt Maynard said: “One of our main focuses during pre-season was the lack of first innings runs last year and putting it right.
“That was the major difference from 2019 where we played some good, winning cricket. If we’re successful in that, we should get in good positions to either capitalise or play for strong draws.
To help with that we’ve moved David Lloyd to the top of the order. The difference between playing well and badly is often whether you have solid opening partnerships.
“At my time at the club we’re still trying to find that. We’ve given a few guys a try there in recent seasons, but he’s been the real standout for me in training. He played well in our intra-squad game and he’s quickly switched on to it.
“There’s no doubt we’re in a very tough group for the County Championship but we’re in a position now that we haven’t been for some time.
“We’re in a position where we can win the County Championship or the Bob Willis Trophy, and it’s great to have a shot at some first-class silverware.
“In saying that, although we need to back ourselves, we also realise the enormity of the task ahead of us. We need to play at our very best in all departments if we’re going to get close to teams like Yorkshire and Lancashire.”
Chris Cooke *+
Timm van der Gugten