Fallible batting line-ups set to be at the mercy of formidable pace units as English conditions will likely ensure a series for the bowlers.
And so, the Ashes have arrived again. With cricket very much in the public spotlight once more, the sport’s greatest rivalry is set to resume in Birmingham on Thursday morning – just a mere 18 days after England lifted their first World Cup on home soil.
Because of that home World Cup, the 2019 version of the Ashes is very much cricket in the fast lane with five Tests – spread across four cities – arriving in just six weeks.
And with such a short turnaround between matches, this series could well hinge on how each side handles their squad rotation and fast bowling depth.
With the English wickets expected to offer plenty of swing and seam, coupled with the obvious batting frailties on either side, it looms as a low scoring series set to be dominated by the ball.
Thankfully for each side they’re stacked in that department. Between them England and Australia have both opted to include six front line seamers in their respective squads.
England will again rely on the evergreen pair of James Anderson and Stuart Broad as chief destroyers alongside the dependable Chris Woakes, the all-round package of Sam Curran and the new speed merchants Jofra Archer and Ollie Stone.
While Australia have the veteran UK specialist Peter Siddle, the World Cup’s leading wicket taker Mitchell Starc, the ever-reliable Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins, and are rounded off with the hustling seam of Michael Neser and the trump card James Pattinson.
After almost five years of frustration, Australia finally has the ‘Big Four’ of Cummins, Hazlewood, Pattinson and Starc all fit and available for selection. This, once distant, dream dates back to late 2014 when Hazlewood was the last of the quartet to make his Test debut.
A combination of injuries, both minor and serious, have meant that, until now, the four have never simultaneously been available. However, with Hazlewood having recovered from the back injury that’s ruled him out since January and Pattinson also seemingly over his own back troubles, they suddenly have an abundance of riches.
Now the visitors must stick to the fundamentals of succeeding in English climes and pick accordingly to the varying conditions. Their 2019 squad make-up suggests they have learnt plenty of lessons from their flawed 2015 Ashes campaign.
After a successful 2013-14 campaign, in which a fiery Mitchell Johnson blow England away, Australia entered English shores in 2015 intent on following a similar pathway.
However, although a pre-tour career ending injury to Ryan Harris scuppered their plans somewhat, an attack of Johnson, Starc and an off-colour Hazlewood was quickly found out across the series despite Johnson’s match winning contribution at Lords.
The 2015 surfaces of Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, in particular, were crying out for the wiles of Siddle, however he was only turned to once the series was already decided in England’s favour.
Siddle, now entering his twilight at 34, is again included in the touring party. And after a successful recent spell in county cricket with Essex, where he’s reaped 34 Championship wickets at 20.08, he’s likely to play a larger role from the get-go this time around.
With Pattinson and Cummins already etched into the starting XI for Edgbaston, Siddle’s in a three-way battle with Hazlewood and Starc for the remaining seamers role.
For England there were similar dilemmas regarding the third seamers role. With Anderson and Broad already certain to begin the series, Woakes has edged out Archer for the final spot.
With his strong Edgbaston connections and figures of 6-17 against Ireland last week, Woakes was the obvious candidate for the role, however, Archer’s inclusion is likely to come later in the series.
Despite a fine start to his international career, Archer has been carrying a slight side injury since his World Cup final exploits and is also short of red-ball practice, having not played a first-class match for ten months.
In the batting, Australia must decide whether Marcus Harris or Cameron Bancroft will open the batting alongside David Warner. Despite Harris being the incumbent, it’s likely that Bancroft will get the nod after his steady runscoring feats with Durham and match-winning contribution of 93 not out in the Australian inter-squad match last week.
England captain Joe Root has already confirmed that he will swap places with Joe Denly in the order and bat at number three. After pressure from parts of the English media and also his coach Trevor Bayliss, Root has decided to make the jump to add more experience to a top three also containing Surrey pair Rory Burns and Jason Roy – who have a combined eight Tests between them.
So, where does this leave us?
England are perhaps slight favourites at this stage with home conditions taken into account and the simple fact that not many current Australian batsmen are very equipped at playing the moving ball.
However, England’s own frailties in the batting department will concern them too. While they pride themselves on batting all the way down to number 10, their top order is a serious worry. After getting bundled out for 85 on a green Lords wicket by 37-year-old county stalwart Tim Murtagh – there are plenty of issues to iron out.
Burns is averaging just 22.28 after 14 Test innings and Denly isn’t fairing much better with 24.16 across six innings. It’s beginning to appear that a lot will rest on Roy’s ability to transform his limited overs form into the Test arena as England continue their long quest to replace Andrew Strauss and Alastair Cook at the top of the order.
Keep an eye on:
Now 29, Pattinson’s only previous Ashes experience was as far back as six years ago when he played in the opening two Tests of the 2013 Ashes series before breaking down with yet another unfortunate injury setback.
After career-threatening back surgery in late 2017, Pattinson has finally returned to his fearsome best this summer during a county spell at Nottinghamshire and the recent Australia A fixtures.
While its doubtful he will play in all five matches, Pattinson’s ability to swing and seam the ball at high speed whilst also offering control will make him a tough proportion to face for the English batsmen.
While England have a number of talented batsmen in their ranks, only Root can claim to be truly world class.
After stating for much of the past year that he prefers to bat at number four, Root has finally budged and moved up one.
The number three spot has been problematic for England ever since Jonathan Trott departed from the international scene in 2015 and despite Root averaging 40.47 batting there instead of the 48.00 he averages at four, it’s a decision made with the best interests of the team at heart.
How Root handles the responsibility of captaincy with the added burden of batting at first drop will likely define the series.
A strong and athletically gifted right-arm fast bowler capable of touching the 90mph barrier, Henry Brookes rose to promise for Warwickshire last summer before a stress-fracture to his back put his fledgling career on hold in mid-July.
By that point, the then 18-year-old had already received a maiden callup to train with the England Lions setup despite having appeared in only six first-class fixtures. Since making his Championship debut in late 2017, he’s captured 21 wickets at 21.38 and looked set to make further strides before his 2018 ending injury.
Also, a capable lower-order batsman – he’s registered two fifties in just eight first-class innings – Brookes has made a huge impression on former Warwickshire sport director, and current England director of cricket Ashley Giles in his so-far nascent career.
The Solihull-born teenager has been with the Midlands county since he was just nine-years-old and recently reaffirmed his commitment to the cause by signing a new contract in December, keeping him at Edgbaston until after the 2021 season.
A former regular with the England U19’s before breaking into the Warwickshire senior setup, he also impressed in both limited-overs formats last summer and looks set for a long and fruitful career for both county and country.
What 2019 holds in store?
Brookes has recently returned to full training and has participated in warm-up matches during Warwickshire’s pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi.
It’s likely that his workload will be managed early season to aid his still-developing body back to full fitness after suffering such a serious back injury.
With former England assistant coach Paul Farbrace replacing Giles as sport director with an emphasis on developing more youth at Edgbaston, Brookes can be expected to make more strides in 2019, especially with Chris Woakes likely to be unavailable for most of the summer and fellow club stalwarts Keith Barker and Chris Wright having recently left for pastures new.
New bowling reinforcements have arrived in the form of Gloucestershire pair Craig Miles and Liam Norwood, while Ollie Stone should shortly return from his own injury issues to bolster the newly promoted side.
But while Division One opponents and pitches will be a step up for Brookes, there’s no reason to believe he won’t continue his rapid rise and work his way back into England Lions consideration during the summer.
Ben Charlesworth (18) – Gloucestershire
A prodigiously talented 18-year-old seam-bowling allrounder, Ben Charlesworth provided a shining light at the end of a disappointing 2018 summer for Gloucestershire.
Taking time out from his A-Level studies at St Edwards School in Oxford, Charlesworth made his first-class bow in August aged just 17. Despite scoring just 1 and 5 and failing to take a wicket on his debut against Warwickshire, it wasn’t long before he began to turn heads in Bristol.
In just his second fixture against Leicestershire, he took the winning wicket with his first delivery of the match and took that confidence into his next match against Middlesex, where he scored a composed first-innings 77 not out and followed it up by taking 3-25 from 13 tight overs with the ball.
In scoring his maiden Championship fifty he became the youngest Gloucestershire player to do so in over 70 years. He soon followed it up with another, when he scored 72 against Glamorgan in Cardiff in another match that his side managed to win.
Although predominantly seen as a bowler first and a batsman second (He batted at seven and eight throughout his six Championship matches for Gloucestershire) It’s his batting that has impressed the most during his blossoming young career.
Following a strong finish to the County season, Charlesworth took his form into the winter with the England U19 side during their tour of Bangladesh.
After making 115 out of a total of 203 in the third YODI he scored 188 runs at 47.00 across the two Youth Tests including first-innings scores of 99 and 63 whilst opening the batting.
What 2019 holds in store?
Having enjoyed a fruitful winter with the England U19’s and also signing a new three-year professional contract with Gloucestershire in October, the future looks bright for Charlesworth.
With Miles and Norwood moving to Warwickshire and fellow seam-bowling allrounder Kieran Noema-Barnett having returned to New Zealand, the first team opportunities are likely to remain for Charlesworth as the summer progresses.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to balance his time between the Gloucestershire First and Second XI’s and his school commitments as shown recently when he skipped the County’s pre-season tour of La Manga to concentrate on his studies.
Jamie Smith (18) – Surrey
A modern-day wicketkeeper batsman with all the strokes, Jamie Smith recently enjoyed a memorable first-class debut for Surrey during their County Champion Match at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
After impressing behind the stumps with a stumping, a catch and a run out, Smith then hit 127 in his maiden first-class knock. Batting at number six, he put on 266 with Ollie Pope for the fifth wicket.
It certainly didn’t go unnoticed that Smith forged such a hefty partnership with Pope – a man he one day hopes to emulate. A fellow wicketkeeper-batsman, Pope made his first-class debut for Surrey in 2017, aged 19 and was representing England at Test cricket just a year later.
Like Pope, Smith is an innovative and attacking batsman capable of playing a variety of diverse innings across the different formats.
Born in Epsom and educated at nearby Whitgift School, he has featured for Surrey since under 10 level and made his T20 debut against fierce rival Middlesex at a packed Lords last summer.
He went onto play a further match against Kent in July before enjoyed success with the England U19 during their winter tour of Bangladesh.
After a pair of low scores in the first Youth Test he relinquished the gloves for the second and scored 90 and 104 batting at number three.
What 2019 holds in store?
With recently jettisoned England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes due to return as the Championship season nears, Smith is certain to again relinquish the gloves and fight for a batting spot in the middle order.
Despite his debut hundred he’s certainly not guaranteed a place in the first XI and it’s likely he’ll be fighting with fellow youngsters Will Jacks and Ryan Patel and new signing Jordan Clark for the final batting spot at number six/seven as the defending County champions retain great strength in depth going into 2019.
However, with injuries and international callups expected throughout the summer, Smith will likely see some first team action across the three formats as well as time representing the Surrey Second XI and club side Sutton CC of the Surrey Premier League.
Liam Trevaskis (19) – Durham
Spinning allrounder Liam Trevaskis shot to fame in a T20 match against Lancashire last August when he took three wickets and defended six runs off the final over to bowl Durham to victory.
Seen largely as a batsman who also bowls some slow left-arm spinners, he’d hitherto taken only one wicket in his prior seven T20 matches leading in, so when he took 4-16 on that Manchester evening it was quite the unexpected coup for Durham.
Carlisle-born and raised in nearby Penrith, the 19-year-old made his T20 and first-class debuts in 2017. However, he’s yet to add to his solitary Championship appearance earned against Worcestershire in September 2017 – despite being named in a several squads throughout 2018.
His spin bowling progressed last summer after having worked with South African legspinner Imran Tahir – who was over representing the Durham Jets in the Vitality Blast and he now has genuine hopes of playing as an allrounder across all formats.
Trevaskis also experienced England U19 honours during the 2017 summer; where he opened the batting in a YODI series against India with reasonable success.
What 2019 holds in store?
With new management at Durham, (Marcus North as Director of Cricket and James Franklin as head coach) Trevaskis could see more first-team action.
He was left out during the recent MCC Universities match against Durham MCCU in favour of the more experienced Ryan Pringle, but he’s likely to rival Pringle for the spinning-allrounder role in the Championship side.
Opportunities for a debut in the Royal London one-day cup are also likely to be forthcoming with Durham kicking off their tournament against Northamptonshire on April 17th.
Perhaps pigeonholed as more of a limited-overs player at this stage of his career, Trevaskis will no doubt look for more openings in the longer format as the summer progresses. In the meantime, he’ll continue to represent the county’s Second XI and South Northumberland CC in the North East Premier League.
Ethan Bamber (20) – Middlesex
A right-arm fast bowler who burst onto the County scene last summer, Ethan Barber impressed with 28 wickets at 20.25 for Middlesex spread across his initial six first-class appearances.
The former England U19 standout made his first-class debut against Northants in August and was a mainstay through to the conclusion of the season, taking a career best of 4-81 against Gloucestershire.
The son of two actors (David Bamber and Julia Swift) and a current Theology student at the University of Exeter, Bamber isn’t your usual run-of-the-mill cricketer.
The Westminster-born youngster, who turned 20 in December, was a late starter to the game after his brother, seven years his senior, had taught him in the family garden and he only began taking it more seriously when he first represented Middlesex at U15 level.
Just a few years later he was playing at the U19 World Cup in New Zealand where he finished England’s joint leading wicket taker with eight wickets in four matches at 13.50 apiece.
What 2019 holds in store?
Middlesex are once again stacked in the fast bowling department with onetime England pair Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones both fit again after long-term injuries and the evergreen Tim Murtagh still going strong at 37, that’s before mentioning the likes of James Harris, Tom Helm and Martin Andersson who all contributed last summer.
With such bowling options, Middlesex are firm favourites to gain promotion back to Division One. However, Bamber looks certain to be relegated back to the Second XI while he continues his studies.
Although he impressed in the most part during his maiden summer, he also lacked consistency – as to be expected for any young bowler, but his development will certainly be aided by the presence of new bowling coach Dimitri Mascarenhas.
Jack Haynes (18) – Worcestershire
A highly-rated young batsman who Worcestershire have great hopes for to eventually replace another prize batting asset in Joe Clarke who joined Nottinghamshire in the offseason.
The right-handed Haynes – whose father Gavin made 100 first-class appearances for Worcestershire in the 1990’s – made his Worcestershire List-A debut against a touring West Indian A side last June, scoring 33 in a narrow defeat.
Shortly after his debut he signed his first professional contract to stay at New Road until after the 2020 season and has continued to be closely mentored by Academy coach Elliot Wilson.
After making his Second XI debut in 2017, he was given further opportunities to develop in the seconds last summer where he scored a match-winning 131 against Notts in the Second Eleven Trophy.
A former captain of the England U16 side, he made his international U19 debut against South Africa last July playing two Youth Tests and two YODI’s with a top score of 74.
He was then named in the Young Lions training camp during the winter – where he briefly worked with former England batsman Ian Bell at the ECB high performance centre in Loughborough – but didn’t make the 15-man squad that went onto tour Bangladesh.
What 2019 holds in store?
Haynes looks set to complete his studies with Malvern College in Worcester before then joining the club on a fulltime basis later in the summer.
Back in Division Two of the Championship, Worcestershire have re-shuffled the coaching setup with Alex Gidman now in charge of the first-team and Kevin Sharp returning to the seconds.
Sharp, who gave Haynes his Second XI debut in 2017, is again likely to have a positive impact on his fledgling career this summer with the 18-year-old primed for plenty more playing time.
Although Clarke has left and Moeen Ali will be absent for long stretches, it’s unlikely that Haynes will immediately oust experienced campaigners like Callum Ferguson, Rikki Wessels and Brett D’Oliveira from the side. He is though, expected to rival fellow rookies Ollie Westbury, Josh Dell and Alex Milton for some playing time across the three formats.
And with a three-day tour match against Australia pencilled in for early August, expect Haynes to feature. He’s also set to continue playing for Ombersley CC in the Birmingham and District Premier Cricket League throughout the summer.
Adam Finch (18) – Worcestershire
Like Haynes, right-arm fast bowler Adam Finch is another great example of the excellent work done by the Worcestershire Academy in developing their own talent in recent years.
The promising 18-year-old only turned to cricket at 14 when he was asked to make up the numbers in a soft-ball match, just three years later he was representing his country in the 2018 U19 World Cup in New Zealand.
Finch has often been praised by the County’s hierarchy for his fantastic work ethic and willingness to learn as well as the vast improvements he’s made to his tall physique.
Under the tutelage of bowling coach and former Pears seamer Alan Richardson, Finch has recently followed fellow young quicks Ed Barnard, Josh Tongue, Pat Brown, George Scrimshaw and Dillon Pennington into the Worcestershire setup.
He made his England U19 debut against India in 2017 after impressing in his first few outings for the Worcestershire Second XI – where he took 5-19 against Yorkshire seconds.
A regular for the England U19 side since his 2017 debut, he impressed with match figures of 8-69 against his South African counterparts in a Youth Test last summer and also represented the team during their winter tour of Bangladesh.
The next step of his development will be to break into the Worcestershire first XI.
What 2019 holds in store?
Worcestershire have recently signed former South African seamer Wayne Parnell to a Kolpak contract to replace the retiring Steve Magoffin – pushing Finch further down the ranks behind Barnard, Tongue, Brown and the currently injured pair Pennington and captain Joe Leech who are both due to return to bowling soon.
Finch and 21-year-old Scrimshaw – who missed all of 2018 with a stress-fracture – will likely be pushing for a reserve roll alongside Charlie Morris who also remains on the fringes of the first-team squad.
Finch remains very highly thought of at New Road and a first-team debut looks imminent after he was involved in many of the County’s pre-season fixtures.
Tom Lammonby (18) – Somerset & Devon
Allrounder Tom Lammonby, a left-handed batsman and left-arm fast bowler, has yet to make his Somerset first-team debut, but big things are expected in the West Country.
Despite not yet having represented Somerset, Lammonby, who doesn’t turn 19 until June, has plenty of other cricketing experience to fall back on.
Last summer he scored three consecutive hundreds for Devon CCC in the Minor Counties League – becoming the first player to achieve the feat for Devon, while he also spent time representing the University of Exeter alongside former England U19 teammate Ethan Bamber of Middlesex.
He certainly didn’t have 2018 all his own way though, as a couple of untimely injuries cost him dear on the international front. Firstly, he suffered a broken hand in the nets which ruled him out of England’s U19 World Cup squad in the winter before he injured his heel when due to captain the U19’s against South Africa in July. He did, however return to skipper the side against Bangladesh recently with mixed fortunes.
Born and raised in Devon, he joined the Somerset Academy in 2015 before signing a two-year professional contract in June 2018 and scoring his first Second XI hundred against The Unicorns.
What 2019 holds in store?
Somerset are not averse to giving youth a chance when they believe the timing is right. Recent examples include Dom Bess, Eddie Byrom, George Bartlett and Tom Banton who have all debuted for the County in the past few years.
Lammonby will have to initially bide his time for first-team opportunities in 2019 as fellow youngsters Byrom, Bartlett and Banton and experienced campaigners like Steven Davies, James Hildreth and Tom Abell and Lewis Gregory all remain ahead of him on the depth chart.
He did, however, recently spent time with the first-team squad during their pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi before taking his place back in the Second XI for their friendly game against Gloucestershire. So, a First XI callup might not be out of the question this summer.
In the meanwhile, he will keep looking to represent the England U19 side along with his Second XI commitments and fixtures for Devon CCC and club side Exeter CC of the Devon Cricket League.
Jack Plom (19) – Essex
A right-arm opening bowler of genuine pace, Jack Plom could well become the next bright young thing to graduate from the Essex academy.
The 19-year-old joined the academy at 15 after current England bowling coach Chris Silverwood, then Essex assistant coach, identified him at a local U15 tournament.
Now he’s looking to join the likes of Aaron Beard, Sam Cook and Dan Lawrence who have all impressed at Chelmsford after making their first-team bows in recent summers.
The Basildon-born Plom made his first-class debut against Cambridge MCCU in early 2018 but did not bat or bowl in a weather affected match, however, he’ll be looking for further opportunities in 2019.
After taking 18 wickets in seven Second Eleven Championship fixtures last summer with a best of 6-33, he signed his first professional contract with Essex in October – committing his future to the County Ground until after the 2020 season.
He also impressed while representing the England U19’s against South Africa last summer where he topped the bowling charts in the Youth Test series with 12 wickets at 14.16.
What 2019 holds in store?
Plom looks set for another summer in and around Anthony McGrath’s first-team setup where he’ll relish the opportunity to work with former South African paceman Andre Nel who has joined as assistant and bowling coach.
He was recently involved in the club’s pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi where he played for a Combined XI against Somerset and took three wickets from his 10 overs.
Although, with such depth in the bowling department, he’s got plenty of hard work ahead to immediately dislodge the likes of Jamie Porter, Peter Siddle, Matt Coles, Matt Quinn, Beard, Cook and Paul Walter from the starting Championship XI.
However, with international callups and the inevitable injuries that plague fast bowlers, there are likely to be opportunities for Plom as the summer rides on, especially in the one-day formats.
George Balderson (18) – Lancashire
It wasn’t so long ago that fans of Lancashire and England were salivating over the talents of a young opening batsman by the name of Haseeb Hameed.
Hameed burst onto the scene three years ago and was representing England shortly after, but the weight of expectation and an enormous dip in form saw him average just 9.71 last summer.
So perhaps a more cautionary approach should be taken when championing the skills of another young opener in 18-year-old George Balderson.
The Stockport-born left-hander, who lists Alastair Cook as his cricketing idol, made excellent strides in the academy and Second XI setups last summer where he helped the County win the Second XI T20 competition despite missing several weeks with a hand injury.
After impressing when captaining the North in the ECB Super 4s, he made his England U19 debut against South Africa at Scarborough last July before being selected for the
Young Lions programme over the winter where he went onto play five times against Bangladesh U19s with a top score of 65.
Also, a useful right-arm fast bowler, he signed a two-year professional contract to stay at Old Trafford in December.
What 2019 holds in store?
Balderson was recently involved during Lancashire’s pre-season trip to Dubai where he took 3-37 against a UAE Men’s 1 side and he will officially join Lancashire fulltime at the conclusion of his A-Levels in June.
In the meantime, he’ll look to continue impressing head coach Glen Chapple, assistant Mark Chilton and the Second XI coaches as he looks to plot a pathway into the first-team setup.
That will be no mean feat though as Hameed, Joe Burns, Keaton Jennings, Alex Davies and Rob Jones are all vying for the top three spots and fellow youngster Josh Bohannon impressed in the allrounder’s role at the end of last season.
Balderson will continue to represent club side Hyde CC in the Cheshire County League where he hit 800 runs last summer.
With another season of the County Championship set to begin on Friday, CaughtOutCricket profiles ten future prospects under the age of twenty to follow the teens of 2016 and 2017
Harry Brook (Age 19) – Yorkshire
Nineteen-year-old Harry Brook is yet another young batsman to fall off the highly regarded Yorkshire production line. A breakout 2017 has led to many suggesting the talented right-hander has all the tools to take his game to the next level.
Despite his tender age he’s already gained a wealth of experience in his nascent career. Be it breaking the Yorkshire Schools record for the most runs in a season while at Ilkey Grammar School in 2013, making his county bow last summer or recently captaining his country in the U19 World Cup in New Zealand – there’s a lot to admire about this youngster.
Brought up playing cricket at his local Burley-In-Whalfedale club alongside his father and uncle, Brook was soon breaking records and turning heads on his way to representing the various Yorkshire underage sides.
After registering a golden duck on first-class debut against the visiting Pakistani’s in 2016, a run of impressive second XI scores (127, 47no, 112 and 161) led to a much-anticipated Championship debut against Middlesex at Lords last summer. Batting at number three he showed great composure in making a first-innings 38 as wicket tumbled around him.
Although he managed only modest returns thereafter – He finished the season out of the side after just 82 runs at 13.66 spread across six innings – his unflustered approach at the crease drew many admirers in the Yorkshire set-up.
He carried on his progression by leading England at the U19 World Cup and topping the team batting averages with 239 runs at 119.50 including two fifties and one hundred. However, despite a fine personal tournament where he was dismissed just twice in five innings, he ended on a sour note when he was dropped for the final match after breaking a team rule.
What 2018 holds in store?
Despite a disappointing end to his U19 World Cup campaign, Brook has begun his 2018 season with Yorkshire in superb fashion. He kickstarted the club’s pre-season tour of South Africa off with a bang, making a magnificent 154 against a Nottinghamshire attack including Mark Footitt and Harry Gurney.
Having said that, he still faces stiff competition to regain his place in the side once the season commences in mid-April. With Indian rock Cheteshwar Pujara arriving for the beginning of the season to supplement the experienced guard of Adam Lyth, Alex Lees and Gary Ballance, it appears that Brook will be fighting it out with Jack Leaning and Tom Kohler-Cadmore for a batting spot.
Brook’s predicament becomes even more complicated when England stars Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow return for Yorkshire’s third Championship match.
It remains likely that he’ll again have to remain patient for his opportunity whilst continuing to score heavily for the Second XI and the Yorkshire Academy.
Matthew Potts (19) – Durham
Matty Potts’ emergence as a talented seam-bowling allrounder has coincided with another traumatic offseason in the northeast.
The Sunderland-born teen shone brightly in a handful of first team opportunities in 2017 and looks set to inherit more responsibility this summer after the club lost senior players Graham Onions, Paul Coughlin and Keaton Jennings to First Division counties and promising batsman Jack Burnham to a one-year drugs ban.
Nineteen-year-old Potts made his first-class debut against Kent last June where despite collecting only one wicket he was entrusted to bowl the final over with just one Kent wicket required. Although he failed to claim the final scalp he had impressed captain Paul Collingwood enough to earn further opportunities.
The wickets began to flow for Potts thereafter as he took ten wickets across matches against Glamorgan and Derbyshire before finishing the season off with a maiden Championship fifty against Derbyshire.
He was rewarded with a three-year professional contract to keep him at the club until after the 2020 season after finishing the year with 14 wickets at 33.21.
What 2018 holds in store?
With club stalwarts Onions and Paul Coughlin heading to pastures new in Lancashire and Nottinghamshire respectively, the door is certainly open for Potts to continue his development in a first team environment.
Veteran Australian Nathan Rimmington has arrived to reinforce the seam bowling options and will join the likes of Potts, James Weighell, Barry McCarthy and Brydon Carse as potential options to supplement first choice pair Chris Rushworth and Mark Wood (should international and IPL commitments allow).
After impressing in limited overs cricket with the England U19’s last summer Potts will also be looking to break into the Durham one-day and T20 sides this year with the Royal London Cup beginning in late May.
Hamidullah Qadri (17) – Derbyshire
Nicknamed “The Magician” offspinner Hamidullah Qadri burst onto the county scene last summer continuing a remarkable personal story that has seen him flee war-torn Afghanistan at the age of ten to become the youngest ever county player to represent Derbyshire at just sixteen.
His story added a significant chapter last June when, just two weeks after completing his GCSE exams, he put in a man-of-the-match performance on first-class debut to bowl Derbyshire to their first Championship victory in nearly two years.
After displaying impressive control in conceding just 16 runs from 15 first-innings overs he turned matchwinner in the second dig. Opening the bowling he returned figures of 26.3-8-60-5 as he tore through the Glamorgan lower order on a turning Cardiff wicket.
More success in Championship matches against Durham and Sussex further enhanced his growing potential as he finished his maiden season with 10 wickets at 28.80.
County cricket’s first millennium child had made an immediate impact and it wasn’t long before he was representing his adopted nation at U19 level. Although he was overlooked for the 2018 U19 World Cup he intends to commit his international future to England.
What 2018 holds in store?
After learning from Derbyshire’s experienced overseas spinners Jeevan Mendis and Imran Tahir last summer, Qadri looked set to continue his education under Mitchell Santner this summer.
Santner was due to arrive later in the summer to replace South African quick Duane Oliver however a severe knee injury to the Kiwi spinner has subsequently put pay to that deal.
While the club have recently confirmed they are seeking a replacement for Santner, they’re currently left with only two specialist tweakers in Qadri and legspinner Matt Critchley alongside the part time offerings of Wayne Madsen.
While it’s likely that Billy Godleman’s side will see the all-round skills of Critchley and Madsen as adequate spin options in early season conditions, Qadri’s time will come later in the summer when the pitches begin to take more turn.
In the meantime, the youngster will be left splitting his time between the Second XI Championship and Derbyshire Premier Cricket League side Alvaston and Boulton CC.
Amar Virdi (19) – Surrey
An offspinner of Indian-heritage, Amar Virdi broke into the Surrey four-day side last summer acting as a second spinner alongside Gareth Batty after the shock early-season retirement of former England allrounder Zafar Ansari.
Virdi impressed on his first-class debut against eventual Championship winners Essex when he bowled former England wicketkeeper James Foster as his maiden victim on his way to collecting first-innings returns of 3-82.
With Surrey regularly opting for a solitary spinner, Virdi had to wait before receiving further opportunities later in the summer with appearances against Hampshire and Middlesex sandwiched between two youth Tests against the Indian U19 side.
While he didn’t pick up a hatful of wickets in his three Championship performances (six wickets at 45.16) he caught the eye of the England selectors and was rewarded with a place on the England Lions winter tour of Australia.
He performed admirably in his one appearance Down Under. Bowling in tandem with fellow England spin aspirant Jack Leach he took 4-70 from 18 overs against a strong Queensland XI side.
What 2018 holds in store?
Despite being in his fortieth year and recently relinquishing the captaincy, veteran Batty has showed no signs of winding down just yet so its again likely that Virdi will be contrived to settle for a second spinners role with perhaps more first XI opportunities coming later in the summer.
Alongside left-armer Freddie van den Bergh, Virdi will offer quality backup for Batty whilst also continuing to learn his trade under the sound stewardship of Alec Stewart and Michael Di Vanuto.
He will also hope to gain further overs under his belt in the Second XI Championship and with Sunbury CC in the Surrey Premier Division.
Will Jacks (19) – Surrey
Another member of the recent Surrey youth-movement alongside Virdi, Ollie Pope, Sam Curran and Ryan Patel, aggressive allrounder Will Jacks hopes to become next in line to wow the crowds in South London.
A hard-hitting batsman, who holds Kevin Pietersen as his idol, Jacks has appeared in several first team squads without yet making his Surrey debut. However, the 2017 Academy player of the year is highly regarded by the club’s hierarchy and was rewarded with a two-year professional contract in October.
Despite not yet making his county first XI, Jacks has built up an impressive resume with the England U19 side. His 102 against India in a Youth Test last summer was a particularly assertive innings that included nine fours and six sixes.
He has also captained the side and acted as vice-captain to Harry Brook in the recently concluded U19 World Cup.
A more than handy offspinner, especially in the shorter formats, he topped the England bowling averages at the U19 World Cup with 7 wickets at 21.57 to go with his 194 runs at 38.60 which included a century against Canada.
What 2018 holds in store?
Although Jacks is yet to make his first XI bow, there’s hope that he’ll be involved with the Surrey one-day teams this summer.
His powerful batting and offspin bowling have him earmarked as a limited-overs specialist and he’s already been involved with the club’s T20 side in pre-season – making 5 against Lancashire in Dubai.
With injury ruling out overseas signing Mitchell Marsh and Jason Roy competing in the IPL, there could well be a Championship opportunity for Jacks at the season edges closer with Surrey yet to replace either man. With a top three of Rory Burns, Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick likely set in stone, Jacks is likely to be competing with Ryan Patel, Ollie Pope, Rikki Clarke for a spot in the middle order.
With Roy due to return after the IPL commences and Virat Kohli rumoured to be signing to play for the club in June, Jacks is likely to return to play in the various second XI competitions as well as representing club side Guildford CC.
Liam Banks (18) – Warwickshire
In what was a desperate overall season for Warwickshire, 18-year-old opener Liam Banks offered a sign of brighter times ahead.
With relegation inevitable towards the latter part of the season, Banks was one of two 18-year-olds (fast bowler Henry Brookes was the other) given a taste of first team action ahead of life in Division Two.
Banks made his first-class debut against Yorkshire at Headingley in September making 13 and 29 before rounding out the season with scores of 1 and 14 against Hampshire at Edgbaston.
Although he managed only four low scores, the Newcastle-under-Lyme-born man is held in high regard in Birmingham having joined the club’s Academy from Staffordshire at the age of 13. He was recently rewarded with a two-year contract extension after a series of impressive performances in the Second XI Championship.
A regular for Staffordshire in the Minor Counties League, Banks also excelled for the England U19 side in the recent World Cup. Splitting time between opening and batting in the middle order he made 207 runs at 51.75 including 120 against Canada and 74 against Bangladesh.
What 2018 holds in store?
After years of overreliance on the veteran batting presence of Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Rikki Clarke and Tim Ambrose, Warwickshire have finally injected some youthful exuberance into their batting with Dominic Sibley (22), Sam Hain (22), Matthew Lamb (21), Andrew Umeed (21) and Ed Pollock (22) joining Banks in the ranks.
Despite finishing last summer in possession of the openers position, it’s expected that Banks will be battling it out with Scotsman Umeed and former Yorkshire allrounder Will Rhodes for the chance to open with the established Sibley.
Rhodes started the recent MCCU match against Durham University and therefore looks likely to begin the Championship season ahead of Banks.
For now, Banks will return to Second XI duty whilst also representing West Bromwich Dartmouth in the Birmingham & District Premier League.
Pat Brown (19) – Worcestershire
Nineteen-year-old Pat Brown followed fellow young quick Josh Tongue (20) into the Worcestershire first team during a successful 2017 for the county.
The Peterborough-born Brown, a right-arm fast bowler with huge potential, was recruited by Worcestershire in 2015 after being spotted at a Pace Factor open day at Wellington School whilst he was then representing Lincolnshire Premier League side Market Deeping.
A regular for the club’s Second XI, he made his first team debut in a T20 match against Nottinghamshire in July before playing a further five NatWest Blast matches with limited success.
He proved much more adept with red ball in hand, making his Championship debut against Sussex in August he claimed Joffra Archer as his maiden first-class victim as he ended the campaign with six wickets at 33.16 across four matches.
What 2018 holds in store?
With the Pears sealing promotion after two years in the Second Division, the whole playing staff face tougher times ahead.
However, the New Road-based side have an abundance of up-and-coming fast bowlers to compliment the club’s veteran performers.
The 2017 ever-present pace trio of Tongue, Joe Leach and Ed Barnard are certain to begin the season in possession of a starting role after sharing 163 Championship wickets between them last summer.
Elsewhere, fans favourite Jack Shantry and experienced newcomer Steve Magoffin will be in the mix to supplement the first-choice trio, leaving Brown to battle it out with fellow young quicks George Scrimshaw, Dillon Pennington and Adam Finch for a backup role.
Although Brown could initially struggle to cement a first XI spot, it remains a long season with three competitions to compete for so he’s likely to see some action down the line.
Tom Banton (19) – Somerset
An attacking top-order batsman and occasional wicketkeeper, Tom Banton is looking to follow in the footsteps of Tom Abell and George Bartlett in graduating from the Somerset academy into becoming a first-choice batsman.
The 19-year-old started out in the Warwickshire academy before moving south to Taunton in 2015 and recently signing a two-year professional contract to remain at the club until the end of the 2019 season.
He made Somerset debut last summer playing back-to-back T20 matches against Middlesex where he caught the eye with the sharp legside stumping of England batsman Dawid Malan.
Banton spent the winter in South Africa playing a tri-series with the hosts and Namibia alongside Somerset teammates Fin Trenouth (see below) and Tom Lammonby before they headed to the U19 World Cup in New Zealand.
Opening the batting alongside both Brook and Banks, Banton acuminated 233 runs at 38.83 with a superb 112 against the hosts New Zealand in England’s final match of the tournament.
What 2018 holds in store?
Eddie Byrom, Marcus Trescothick, Abell, Bartlett, James Hildreth started the recent four-day pre-season match with Ireland with the experienced Steven Davies keeping wicket and rounding out the top six.
With the recent arrival of Australian opener Matt Renshaw now confirmed, its likely that Byrom will give way to start the Championship season against Worcestershire on April 20th with Roelof van der Merve, Peter Trego and Lewis Gregory fighting it out for the allrounders role at number seven.
Such depth is likely to leave Banton and fellow youngsters Trenouth and Lammonby on the margins of the Championship side this summer.
However, after the departure of reserve wicketkeeper Ryan Davies over the winter, Banton is set to backup Steven Davies this year with plenty of limited-overs opportunities likely to be heading his way in the Royal London Cup and the Vitality Blast.
Finlay Trenouth (19) – Somerset
A hard-hitting batsman with enormous potential, 19-year-old Fin Trenouth has yet to play a senior match for his county but is already been talked up across the Quantock Hills.
The academy product shot to fame in 2016 when he scored an unbeaten 330 for the Somerset U17 side in a U17 Championship match against Hampshire.
A lively character with the ability to hit a clean ball, he’s currently signed to a summer contract at Taunton after graduating from the academy but its surely only a matter of time before the right-hander breaks into the first team setup.
Also capable of keeping wicket, he’s a product of the prestigious Millfield School – which has also produced the likes of James Hildreth, Craig Kieswetter and Daniel Bell-Drummond.
Trenouth made his England U19 debut against India last summer and also represented the team at the U19 World Cup in January but struggled to live up to his potential with just 27 runs at 6.75.
What 2018 holds in store?
It’s a big year for the exciting Trenouth. Only currently on a one-year deal with the county, he’ll be keen to impress in the second XI championship to earn a longer stay at the County Ground.
With Somerset deep in their batting heading into the season, Trenouth will be battling it out with fellow youngsters Bartlett, Banton and Lammonby for first XI opportunities.
He will also look to continue his apprenticeship with Devon in the Minor Counties League and club side Bristol CC in the West of England Premier League.
Felix Organ (18) – Hampshire
Offspinning-allrounder, Felix Organ broke into the Hampshire first XI last summer after string of impressive performances for the academy side.
Born in Sydney but raised in the south of England where he attended both Twyford and Canford schools, Organ’s 536 academy runs at 39.07 saw him earn his maiden first-class callup against Middlesex at Uxbridge.
Despite the inadequate Uxbridge drainage system, which saw the match dwindle into a bore draw, Organ managed to make 16 from 36 deliveries in his sole innings batting at number five.
Earlier in the summer he had represented the England U19 side in their limited overs series with India where he top-scored with 61 in the fourth match. However, he was overlooked for the U19 World Cup squad after a disappointing winter tri-series in South Africa.
He signed a two-year academy contract towards the end of the year and is very much a part of Hampshire’s longer-term plans going forward.
What 2018 holds in store?
Organ has already begun his 2018 campaign by playing four one-day matches for Hampshire during their pre-season participation in the Super50 Cup in Barbados in February.
After recording two ducks and taking just two wickets across the four matches, it’s safe to say Organ didn’t have the immediate impact he would have desired but he will be better off for the experience gained playing on turning Caribbean wickets.
Looking ahead to the county season, it already been confirmed that the 18-year-old will spend the majority of the season playing for the academy and in the Second XI championship.
With fellow allrounder Liam Dawson, recent England cap Mason Crane and young offspinner Brad Taylor ahead of him with the ball and the club recruiting top batting talent in Hashim Amla and Sam Northeast, it’s unlikely any first XI opportunities are forthcoming in 2018.
Also look out for… Jack Plom (18) – Essex, Liam Trevaskis (18) – Durham, Ollie Robinson (19) – Kent, James Taylor (17) – Derbyshire
England’s latest Ashes squad represents further muddled thinking from the selectors who appear to have run out of batting ideas.
In the backdrop of the Ben Stokes brawling scandal, England’s Ashes squad announcement has played second fiddle in the public interest despite several curious and underwhelming choices from the selectors.
The inclusion of Hampshire batsman James Vince has raised the most eyebrows with the right-hander being recalled to the Test side in place of the jettisoned Tom Westley, despite averaging just 32.94 in this summer’s recently concluded County Championship. There’s also a return for Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance and first Ashes call-ups for Surrey’s Ben Foakes, Hampshire’s Mason Crane and Craig Overton of Somerset.
Vince, who played seven Test matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan last summer, now looks likely to become England’s new number three after Westley became the latest England batsman to be thrown on the scrapheap following a disappointing five-match spell in the side. Having tried and disregarded a host of options in recent years including the likes of Sam Robson, Adam Lyth, Keaton Jennings, Alex Hales, Haseeb Hameed, Ben Duckett, Jos Buttler and Nick Compton – the England hierarchy have simply found themselves nowhere left to turn other than to recall the previously overwhelmed pair of Ballance and Vince.
The return of Vince, despite no recent County form to speak of and an unpleasant Test record that reads: 7 Tests, 11 innings, 212 runs at 19.27 and a highest score of 42, is another instance of muddled thinking from James Whitaker and his fellow selectors. Vince, although a talented batsman with a dreamy cover drive, was shown to be heavily suspect outside his off stump during his brief Test exposure last summer. His willingness to chase at wide deliveries he should be leaving alone could come back to haunt the England hierarchy if, as expected, he is the man chosen to bat at number three come the first Test on November 23rd.
While Ballance enjoyed a fine start to the summer with Yorkshire – eventually finishing with 951 runs at 67.92 – he has struggled for runs since breaking his finger against South Africa in July. This latest opportunity represents the third time he has returned to the Test set-up after been dropped during the 2015 Ashes and again in Bangladesh last winter. Ballance, a tough and resilient character, will look upon the opportunity as “Third time lucky”, although the cynics might suggest it’s more a case of “Last chance saloon” as his Test career reaches a major crossroads after averaging just 19 in his previous 12 matches.
Like Vince, Ballance has shown technical vulnerabilities throughout his international career. Whereas the Hampshire-man’s downfall is his love for the drive, Ballance has refused to change a technique that sees him shuffle back into the crease rather than getting onto the front foot. Despite both men’s flaws, it’s difficult to imagine who the selectors could have possibly turned to instead.
Hameed has struggled to make runs for Lancashire after returning from a thumb injury at the beginning of the summer, likewise Jennings has failed to pass 20 in the twelve innings he’s played for Durham since his Test axing in August. Hales and Buttler don’t play enough first-class cricket to form any valuable consistency in the format and the likes of Compton (season average – 26.23) Duckett (42.05) Lyth (25.22) and Robson (39.25) just haven’t pulled up enough trees this summer.
In a way you simply have to feel sorry for the selectors. Who else REALLY can they pick? They just can’t find the correct batting formula to compliment Alastair Cook and Joe Root. Since Root debuted in late 2012 there’s been thirteen batting debutants with only Hameed and Root himself managing to average over 40. Perhaps further down the line youngsters such as Joe Clarke of Worcestershire and Essex’s Daniel Lawrence should be given an opportunity but an Ashes tour is no place to blood adolescents.
Elsewhere, Somerset’s Craig Overton was included ahead of the unfit Mark Wood and injured Toby Roland-Jones. The call-up of Overton is England’s Ashes bolter and could well be an inspired one. Although he lacks the pace of his, currently injured, twin brother Jamie, Craig Overton is a fine cricketer who uses his tall frame to generate speed in the high 80’s as well being a more than capable batsman and sharp fielder. Many will suggest that he’s fortunate his brother is currently laid low, like Roland-Jones, with an early stage stress fracture of the back or he, instead, may have come under consideration. However, 46 County Championship wickets at 22.39 cannot be sniffed at and he’ll look to use the early tour matches as an opportunity to stake a claim alongside Jake Ball.
The decision to pick Mason Crane as the backup spinner is a risky one. It was certainly a decision based on two factors; Potential and recent exposure down under. Unquestionably, Crane has great potential as a young legspinner, however, he’s played second fiddle to the steady left-arm offerings of Liam Dawson at Hampshire this summer. Playing in just half of his side’s Championship fixtures, he’s mustered the unflattering returns of 16 wickets at 44.68. The big appeal for the selectors lies with his recent experience in Australian conditions after he spent winter playing Sydney Grade cricket with Gordon – a move that saw him rewarded with a Sheffield Shield debut for New South Wales.
Many have called it the weakest England squad to tour Australia in recent memory but with world-class batsmen in Cook and Root, a middle order packed with quality allrounders and the pace pair of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, it’s far too early to be calling 5-0 to the Aussies.
And yet, for England this could all pale into insignificance if Ben Stokes is an Ashes absentee.
With another year of the County Championship kicking off recently, I follow up last year’s list of the most exciting talent under the age of 20 with a new group of players ready to take the County scene by storm.
Aaron Beard (Age 19) – Essex
A right-arm fast bowler who has spent the winter with the England U19’s in India, Aaron Beard has impressed many at Chelmsford after rising through the ranks into the first XI during the 2016 season.
He was rewarded for a strong showing with a new one year extension at the end of last summer. After impressing with 4-62 on his first-class debut against the touring Sri Lankans in May last year he went on to play two further Championship matches later that month before dropping back into Second XI and U19 cricket.
But 2016 wasn’t the beginning of Beard’s journey as a known cricketer. In 2013, he hit the headlines as a 15-year-old schoolboy, when he was asked to field for the England side during a pre-Ashes scrimmage against Essex. Luckily for Beard his school gave him permission to skip class for a day out in the field instead.
What 2017 holds in store?
With a bit of luck on his side, Beard will have a regular chance to pit his wits against First Division batsmen for the first time after Essex earned promotion last summer. He began well with 3-47 and 2-45 in the season opener against Lancashire before dropping out of the side for the next match against Somerset in Taunton.
Essex’s first season in the top flight since 2010 has seen them reinforce the fast bowling stocks with the arrivals of both Mohammed Amir and Neil Wagner – who will share the overseas responsibly. With club legends Graham Napier and David Masters having hung up their boots following stellar careers, bowling places are up for grabs at the County Ground. Beard will be vying with the likes of Jamie Porter, Matt Quinn and Matt Dixon for a place alongside either of the overseas duo.
Dominic Bess (19) – Somerset
An offspin bowler of enormous potential, Devon-born Dominic Bess burst onto the scene with 6-28 on his County Championship debut against Warwickshire last September. This was no ordinary debut. His wickets included the former England batsmen Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell with successive deliveries as he ripped apart the Bears middle order.
Bowling in tandem with fellow spinner Jack Leach, Bess followed up his dream debut with an equally polished display against Nottinghamshire later the same month. This time his first-innings figures read an impressive 22.5-10-43-5. He also showed an ability with bat in hand too, striking 41 when others struggled to adapt to a turning Taunton wicket.
Bess was one of the key beneficiaries of the ECB’s new 2016 initiative to introduce more spin bowlers to the County game via a no-toss rule. Without the rule in place it’s doubtful he would have been given the chance to bowl alongside fellow spinners Leach and Roedolf van der Merve.
After a successful first foray into County Cricket, he spent most his winter Down Under playing grade cricket for the West Torrens Cricket Club in Adelaide.
What 2017 holds in store?
With more than half (8 out of 14) of Somerset’s Championship fixtures being played before the NatWest Blast kicks off in early July, its likely – with both Leach and van der Merve ahead of him in the spin ranks – that Bess doesn’t see any Championship action until at least August.
That could mean a summer of Second XI cricket awaits Bess unless he can break into either of the two limited overs formats. That said, if Leach continues to take mountains of wickets and England are looking for another spin option for their Test series with South Africa and the West Indies then Bess could well find a first team spot available.
Ollie Pope (19) – Surrey
A talented wicketkeeper/batsman, Ollie Pope broke into the Surrey setup late last summer after some impressive performances with both the County’s Second XI and the England U19’s.
He made his Surrey debut in an important fixture too. With a place in the Royal London Cup final at stake, Pope was thrust into the spotlight at Headingley as his Surrey side defeated Yorkshire to reach the Lords showpiece. Batting at seven, he made 20 0ff 23 before being runout on the final ball of the innings.
One of many wicketkeeper/batsmen to have been on the Surrey books in recent times, Pope was rewarded with a two-year professional contract last August having represented the club since he was nine-years-old.
Before signing a professional contract, he combined his days in the Surrey academy with a prolific run-scoring spell at Cranleigh School.
He made his first-class debut in a recent MCCU fixture against Oxford University at The Parks.
What 2017 holds in store?
With former wicketkeepers Steven Davies and Gary Wilson having left for pastures new with Somerset and Derbyshire respectively, Pope suddenly finds himself further up the pecking order at The Oval.
He will still start the season as deputy to regular glovesman Ben Foakes, though. Nevertheless, with Foakes attracting series interest from the England selectors, there could still be a chance that Pope will battle with Rory Burns to see some time behind the stumps.
As for seeing time in front of the stumps, that will be a difficult task – especially as Surrey have further strengthened the batting with ex-Durham pair Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick.
Even if he doesn’t see much first-team action in 2017, Pope will at least get the opportunity to improve his skills by again working alongside former England wicketkeeper Alec Stewart.
Josh Coughlin (19) – Durham
Sunderland-born fast bowler Josh Coughlin is another to fall off the long conveyer belt of North East talent in recent times.
The 19-year-old made his first-class bow against a touring Sri Lanka A side last June – in doing so he joined his brother Paul in having represented the county. He followed that up a month later by debuting for the England U19 side against their Sri Lankan counterparts before succumbing to a knee injury.
He returned later in the season to help Durham capture the 2016 Second XI Championship, whilst also continuing to represent Durham Academy in the North East Premier League.
After captaining the Academy side to the NEPL T20 cup last year, he was rewarded with a one-year summer development contract ahead of the 2017 season.
What 2017 holds in store?
Despite Durham’s well-documented financial problems leading to a flurry of departures in the offseason, the quick bowling has remained relatively intact with only Asher Hart (Hampshire) and Jamie Harrison (Released) leaving the club.
That means that Coughlin will be very much fighting it out for a place in the team. The experienced trio of Graham Onions, Chris Rushworth and Mark Wood will no doubt start the season in the side so Coughlin will be left to compete for playing time alongside the likes of his brother Paul, James Weighell, Brydon Carse, Barry McCarthy, Gavin Main and Usman Arshad.
Cracking a first-team spot in 2017 will be difficult with such an array of bowling talent available to Durham. However, it only takes a few injuries and likely international call-ups for the likes of Wood and McCarthy to lead to the resources being stretched and opportunities arising. In the meanwhile, Coughlin will continue his development with the county’s Second XI and club side Hetton Lyons.
Delray Rawlins (19) – Sussex
A hard-hitting batsman and left-arm spinner, Delray Rawlins certainly comes with an interesting story.
In 2013, he made his international debut for his country of birth Bermuda at the tender age of 15. In 2014, he earned a scholarship at the prestigious St Bede’s School in East Sussex as part of a programme organised by the Bermudian cricket board and just a year later he joined the Sussex Academy after a successful trial.
After impressing in Second XI cricket, where he was often the sole spinner in the side as well as batting in the top order, he signed a one-year professional contract with the Hove-based club last October before recently adding an extra year onto that to stay until the end of 2018.
Despite representing Bermuda as recently as November – when he played in the World Cricket League Division Four matches in Los Angeles – Rawlins had pledged his future alliance to his adopted country.
And in doing so he made an immediate impression with a debut hundred for the England U19 programme in India in January. That unbeaten 109 was followed by scores of: 46, 96, 9, 17, 70*, 15, 140 and 49 as he established himself as a young man for all occasions across the five ODI and two Youth Test matches.
What does 2017 hold in store?
After making his first-class debut in a recent MCCU fixture with Cardiff University, Rawlins was selected for Sussex’s opening 2017 County Championship fixture with Kent at Hove.
Batting at number three he made a gritty 78-ball 22 after coming to the crease with his side in early trouble. He will be looking to cement his place in the side before veterans Ed Joyce, Luke Wells and Matt Machen all become available for selection again.
Going forward, Rawlins could well be battling it out for an allrounders role with the likes of captain Luke Wright, Chris Jordan and new Kolpak signing David Wiese.
His power hitting and tidy spin could well become useful in both the Royal London Cup and NatWest Blast.
George Bartlett (19) – Somerset
George Bartlett could well be the best batting talent to emerge at Taunton since current captain Tom Abell.
A right-handed batsman with a bright future, Bartlett graduated from the Somerset Academy last summer before signing a one-year professional contract in October after impressing in the club’s Second XI competitions.
He’s also been a regular contributor for the England U19 side in recent years. None more so that when he was part of a gigantic stand worth 321 in 82 overs with Max Holden in India earlier this year. Bartlett’s contribution was a huge 179 (The highest score by an England U19 batsman overseas, beating the 170 made by Nasser Hassain in Sri Lanka in 1987) and he added further scores of 68, 0 and 76 to round out a successful Youth Test series on the subcontinent.
What does 2017 hold in store?
Despite the retirement of Chris Rogers (Who returns as batting coach this summer) finding a spot for Bartlett in a crowded middle order looks initially impossible. With Marcus Trescothick and Dean Elgar likely to open the batting, Abell will move down to three and will likely be followed by James Hildreth at four, Steven Davies at five and then two of Roedolf van der Merve, Jim Allenby, Peter Trego or Lewis Gregory at six and seven.
And that lineup doesn’t include promising wicketkeeper Ryan Davies who is likely to perhaps miss out due to the signing of Steven Davies.
So, it’s likely that Bartlett must continue knocking down the door with Second XI runs as he waits for an opportunity further down the line.
Max Holden (19) – Northamptonshire (on loan from Middlesex)
A left-handed middle-order batsman – who’s also capable of opening – Max Holden moved on loan to Northamptonshire until the end of June after finding opportunities limited at parent club Middlesex.
That’s not to say that he’s not held in high esteem at Lords. He just finds himself behind the likes of Adam Voges, Sam Robson, Nick Gubbins, Dawid Malan and Nick Compton in a stacked Middlesex batting unit.
Cambridgeshire-born Holden signed a four-year contract with Middlesex in 2016 after graduating from their Academy and age-group systems.
A regular captain with the England U19 side in recent years, he was part of that huge stand of 321 with Bartlett in Nagpur – a new record for any wicket for England which has only been beaten once in all international Under-19 cricket. Holden’s contribution was 170.
What does 2017 hold in store?
He will be available in both the Specsavers Championship and the Royal London One-Day Cup until the end of June, and looks to have secured a middle order spot at Wantage Road – a ground where he made a century for the England U19’s last summer.
He made 19 and 75 not out against Loughborough MCCU on his first-class debut earlier this month, before bagging a duck on his Championship bow against Glamorgan.
George Garton (19) – Sussex
A tall left-arm fast bowler, George Garton made major strides in 2016. He started the year playing for England in the U19 World Cup before representing Sussex across all formats and tasting further international honours with the England Lions.
The Brighton-born man made his first-class debut a year ago against Leeds/Bradford MCCU – taking a wicket with his first ball – and went on to play four further Championship fixtures for Sussex taking 10 wickets at 35.20.
He also made an impression in the Royal London and NatWest Blast competitions too. His immediate impact in the short formats for Sussex earned him a shock call up to the England Lions squad for a tri-series also involving the Pakistan and Sri Lanka A sides. Garton played in three of the fixtures, impressing with 4-43 against the Sri Lankans at Canterbury.
His international aspirations were further enhanced when he was selected as part of the England Pace Programme for a two-week training camp in South Africa at the beginning of the year.
What does 2017 hold in store?
With experienced South African Vernon Philander having been brought in as an overseas player, thus joining a fast-bowling arsenal that also includes Ajmal Shahzad, Chris Jordan, Jofra Archer, David Wiese, Ollie Robinson, Stu Whittingham and Steve Magoffin, finding a place in the side for Garton will prove initially difficult for coach Mark Davis.
Having said that, Garton – who turns 20 on April 15th – has impressed bowling coach Jon Lewis aplenty during his time with the club and with his left-arm quick bowling he offers something different to any other bowler at the club with fellow left-armer Tymal Mills now just a T20 specialist.
Kiran Carlson (18) – Glamorgan
One of two young Welshmen on this year’s list, Kiran Carlson is part of an exciting crop of youngsters currently on the Glamorgan staff that also includes Owen Morgan, Aneurin Donald, Nick Selman and Lukas Carey (see below).
A right-handed middle-order batsman and handy offspin bowler, Carlson became the youngest player to record a first-class hundred for Glamorgan when he made 119 against eventual champions Essex at Chelmsford aged just 18-years and 119 days.
Despite batting being his primary forte, he originally made his name with the ball. Turning his arm over on a spinning Northampton track he took 5-18 on debut – including the wicket of England batsman Ben Duckett.
Whilst completing his maiden hundred, he became the youngest player in English county first-class cricket to record the double of a five-for and century.
He finished off 2016 with an unbeaten run-a-ball 74 against Leicestershire and, at just 18, he promises to reach further milestones in 2017.
What does 2017 hold in store?
Now a permanent fixture in a young Glamorgan lower middle-order, Carlson will hope his first summer of first-class cricket wasn’t just a flash in the pan.
His season didn’t get off to the best start. Batting at number seven he registered a first-innings duck against Northamptonshire before making 30 in the second dig.
Although he will likely face many ups and downs during his first full season of senior cricket, with the backing of coach Robert Croft he’s likely to be given ample opportunities to find his feet.
Lukas Carey (19) – Glamorgan
Like Carlson, 19-year-old Carey is a product of the Glamorgan/Wales Minor County pathways system that has helped produce a clutch of talented players over recent seasons.
Carey, a right-arm medium fast bowler from Pontarddulais, has the potential to become the most exciting bowler to emerge from Wales since James Harris first broke through a decade ago.
He made his mark last August with a fiery Championship debut spell against Northamptonshire in Swansea. Opening the bowling, Carey tore through the visitor’s top order with three wickets in his first six overs. Like Carlson he also claimed Duckett as his maiden first-class victim.
In all he took 13 wickets at 25.38 in three Championship matches last summer to kickstart a promising career.
What does 2017 hold in store?
Carey begun the 2017 County Championship season well when he claimed 4-85 in Glamorgan’s opening defeat at Northamptonshire. He followed that up with 3-85 and 1-13 in his second game against Worcestershire and looks to have established a solid opening partnership with veteran Australian Michael Hogan.
Also look out for…
Tom Haines (18) – Sussex, George Panayi (19) – Warwickshire, Harry Brook (18) – Yorkshire, Josh Tongue (19) – Worcestershire
Veteran batsmen are among a dying breed of experienced ex-international leaders on the county circuit; but can Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott follow suit?
To witness Somerset’s Marcus Trescothick pull apart a Test-quality Pakistani attack on the way to his 61st first-class hundred this week brought a certain warmth to the heart.
For men like Trescothick, who will turn 41 years old this Christmas, don’t litter the outfields of county cricket like they once did. In fact for sheer age, longevity and leadership qualities perhaps only Durham’s own elder statesman Paul Collingwood, five months Trescothick’s junior, can rival the inspiration offered by the man known as Tresco.
There’s something much underappreciated about the old county pro. If English cricket is to continue its upward curve on the international scene then the influence of such men must not be simply brushed aside. Without their vacuum of knowledge the county game could suffer immeasurably.
With restrictions on the number of Kolpak players allowed and tidy financial incentives being offered to Counties who blood English-qualified youngsters into their systems, the number of former international stalwarts in county cricket is slowly dwindling.
In decades gone by many former England cricketers would have jumped at the chance to finish their careers with their respective home counties, but the landscape is vastly changing. The cricket world is now filled with endless T20 league opportunities, well-paid media openings and attractive coaching roles that tussle for both time and attraction.
Indeed, England’s three previous Test captains Nasser Hussain, Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss each showed little-to-no interest in carrying on their county careers once the international limelight had fizzled away.
There are exceptions of course. Mark Butcher played on for Surrey five years after his international career had ground to a halt in 2004 and Mark Ramprakash continued to dominate the county scene for a decade after his England days were numbered in 2002.
While injuries have prevented the likes of Graeme Swann and Matt Prior from continuing in the county game, the blow seems to have been somewhat softened by Swann’s media work with TMS and Prior’s indulge into the world of cycling. Kevin Pietersen, despite a brief return to county cricket with Surrey last summer, was never likely to spend his final playing days out in the pastures of Arundel Castle or Scarborough.
Of course different players are motivated by different things. Be it the monetary aspects, lifestyle choices or simply the need to give something back to the game that has given them so much. Each player has his own reasons for playing on or taking an early retirement.
With 170 Test caps between them Warwickshire’s Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott represent a new generation of county statesmen. With other batsmen now seemingly ahead of him, Bell’s chances of an England recall appear to be evaporating with each squad announcement. But with the Bears captaincy now in tow and a demanding respect in the county game, Bell could well prolong his career for a good few years yet. On the other hand Trott, much like Trescothick, is just happy to be playing the game he loves away from the international spotlight.
Recently axed by England, Middlesex’s Nick Compton is currently taking time away from the game to reassess his career ambitions. Given that his international career seems to have ended after its second reincarnation, Compton must now decide if he’s keen on the life of a county pro or if opportunities elsewhere jump out as more appealing.
Another man recently faced with the similar decision was Michael Carberry. Jettisoned from the England Test side after the Ashes whitewash of 2013/14, Carberry has since gone on reinvent himself as a number four with Hampshire, having predominantly opened the batting throughout his career.
It can’t be underestimated the fine work both Trescothick and Collingwood have done in recent years. With the bat both men can still provide measurable contributions. Prior to recently breaking his thumb against Yorkshire, Collingwood has added 402 County Championship runs at 57.42. Trescothick has also continued to roll back the years in the West Country with 557 runs at 42.80.
While their inputs with the bat allow for them to continue playing at county level, it’s their abilities to transfer knowledge that continues to be most invaluable asset.
Trescothick, captain of the Somerset first-class side until this summer, has overseen the recent development of the likes of Jos Buttler, Tom Abell and the Overton twins Craig and Jamie.
Since taking over as captain four years ago, Collingwood has performed miracles in the North East. Durham, a county beset by financial cripple in recent times, are now down to the bare bones of a playing squad that keeps punching above its weight when logic predicts otherwise.
The tenure of Colly has instead coincided with the emergence of recent England players Scott Borthwick, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood. While promising England U19 batsman Jack Burnham could hardly ask for a better mentor than Collingwood.
Others warrant a mention too. Nottinghamshire’s Chris Read and Gareth Batty of Surrey deserve huge credit for giving back to the county game. Read, even at 37, remains one of the country’s outstanding glovesmen, while Batty’s leadership of the dressing room after the death of Tom Maynard has been second to none. The 38-year-old now combines his time captaining Surrey with the mentorship of potential England Test player Zafar Ansari.
When players such as Collingwood and Trescothick eventually decide to call it a day, how easily will they be replaced?
That’s a question for later. For now we must sit back and appreciate the county pros of today before they are gone.
With 2015 champions Yorkshire kick-starting another summer of County Cricket with defeat against the MCC in the annual curtain-raiser fixture in Abu Dhabi this week, I take a look to the future with ten young names under-20 to watch out for in 2016.
Saif Zaib (Age 17) – Northamptonshire
A stylish left-handed batsman who also bowls left-arm spin, Zaib is highly regarded by many at Wantage Road. In July 2014 – just months after becoming the youngest man ever to represent Northants in an unofficial match against Durham UCCE – he made his much anticipated senior limited overs debut against a touring New Zealand A side aged just 16 and 70 days old.
While he saw his opportunities diminish somewhat thereafter, an impressive string of second XI knocks during the middle of last summer saw him break into the first XI – making both his Royal London Cup and County Championship bows in the process. Despite registering a 12-ball duck on first-class debut, he impressed not long after with an assured 21 off 26 deliveries against a strong touring Australian attack.
What 2016 holds in store?
After signing a new three-year contract prior to last summer, the future looks bright for Zaib. With the departures of club stalwarts Stephen Peters (retired) and Kyle Coetzer (released), there should be more opportunities for him to earn a regular berth in the middle order and follow the likes of Ben Duckett and Olly Stone in graduating through the system in recent years.
With former England spinner Monty Panesar also training with the club during pre-season, expect some of his wisdom and experience to rub off on Zaib’s own left-arm tweakers.
Matthew Fisher (18) – Yorkshire
Still only just 18 years old, It’s hard to believe that almost three years have passed since this strapping fast bowler made his first team debut for the White Rose. Then just 15 years and 212 days old, he became the youngest post-war County cricketer when representing Yorkshire in a Yorkshire Bank 40 fixture against Leicestershire in June 2013. Whilst he scored just ten and returned figures of 1-40 from seven overs, it was clear for all to see – this was a special cricketer in the making.
With a fast bowling battery that’s unrivalled across the country for its sheer depth and variety, its understandable that regular opportunities haven’t been so easy to grasp for Fisher. That said, 2015 did represent a breakout season for the right-arm quick as he made both his first-class and T20 debuts for the county.
After a spate of early season injuries and England call-ups decimated the Yorkshire attack, Fisher was called upon to make his County Championship bow against Nottinghamshire in April – earning high plaudits in the process as he claimed former Zimbabwe batsman Brendan Taylor as his maiden victim in first-class cricket.
Further opportunities arrived in the form of the limited overs competitions too – where he became a regular across the summer after taking a dreamy 5-22 against Derbyshire on T20 debut. He would go on to claim 16 wickets in 13 T20 matches and eight wickets in as many matches in the one-day format.
What 2016 holds in store?
With David Willey arriving from Northamptonshire during the winter, and sighting a burning desire to fight his way into the England Test setup as a key factor, Fisher’s first-class exposure may have to put on hold for a little longer as Liam Plunkett, Jack Brooks, Ryan Sidebottom, Tim Bresnan and Steven Pattinson also still stand above him on the depth chart.
Limited overs cricket remains a different prospect though. Yorkshire’s recent philosophy of blooding youngsters in the T20 Blast and Royal London one-day competitions will surely see Fisher earn more opportunities to further enhance his rapidly developing reputation.
Daniel Lawrence (18) – Essex
Right-handed batsman Lawrence burst onto the scene with a chanceless 161 against Surrey last April, in doing so he became the third youngest batsman to register a Championship hundred at just 17 years and 290 days old.
His 2015 Championship fast-tracking was based on a strong winter campaign down under with Geelong side Newton and Chilwell and backed up with a string of impressive pre-season performances for Essex.
While his County form tapered off as the summer wore on, he reinstated his rich promise with two hundreds in three innings for the England U19’s against their Australian counterparts in August and continued to dominate during the winter with further impressive campaigns both in Sri Lanka and during the U19 World Cup in Bangladesh.
What 2016 holds in store?
The tides are turning in Chelmsford. After years of underachievement finally caught up with head coach Paul Grayson he left the club by mutual consent late last summer and has since been replaced by former England bowler Chris Silverwood.
Following Grayson out of the door over the winter were batsman Mark Pettini and Greg Smith, which is sure to spell more opportunities for Lawrence. While Alastair Cook will open the batting for Essex before England duties arrive in May, Lawrence is thereafter likely to slot in alongside Nick Browne at the top of the order with Tom Westley, Ravi Bopara, Jaik Mickleburgh and Jesse Ryder rounding out the top six.
Aneurin Donald (19) – Glamorgan
Not since Simon Jones arrived onto the scene in the late nineties has there been as much fanfare over a cricketer heralding from the land of the red dragon.
Like Jones, former England U19 captain Donald hails from the Welsh city of Swansea and like Jones, and Robert Croft before him, there is hope that he can one day represent the senior England side.
A middle-order batsman of huge potential, Donald made his Glamorgan debut in a first-class match at the backend of the 2014 summer and progressed further last year with five more Championship appearances including a career-best score of 98 to conclude the season in fine style against Gloucestershire.
Despite having played five limited over fixtures for Glamorgan last summer and being a former captain of the side he was initially left out of the England U19 setup throughout the winter before returning to play two unsuccessful matches during the disappointing World Cup campaign in February.
Prior to the tournament Donald spent time honing his batting at the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide, where he also played grade cricket with mixed success.
What 2016 holds in store?
After finished the 2015 summer as the incumbent number four in the Glamorgan side, Donald will be hoping he retains his place for the beginning of the 2016 season.
Without the added pressures of academic work to concentrate on during the 2016 campaign, the whole of Wales will be hoping Donald can graduate into a regular contributor in the middle order, scoring his maiden first-class hundred in the process would also be a major goal.
Jack Burnham (19) – Durham
Unlike Donald, Durham’s Burnham had a excellent World Cup. His three hundreds in just six innings were enough to see him top the batting charts with 420 runs at 84.
In recent times the Championship’s most northerly county appear to be the gift that keeps on giving. Scott Borthwick, Ben Stokes and Mark Wood have all progressed through the Durham ranks into the England side recently and Burnham could become next off the conveyer belt.
After batting at number six and making 0 and 50 against Yorkshire at Scarborough on his first-class debut in August, Burnham struggled thereafter after being asked to open alongside Mark Stoneman in his remaining three matches.
Despite having success opening for Northumberland in Minor Counties cricket, Chester-le-Street -with its green wickets and overcast skies – is at times an unforgiving task, especially for an inexperienced rookie.
What 2016 holds in store?
With finances still tight in the North East, substantial player recruitment has been consigned to the back burner in recent times – leading to a major need for developing talent from within. This will again mean more opportunities in 2016 for Burnham and other young batsman such as Ryan Pringle, Graham Clark and Keaton Jennings.
Despite opening last summer and batting at number three in the U19’s World Cup, skipper Paul Collingwood would do much worse than letting Burnham develop his game further down the order.
Haseeb Hameed (19) – Lancashire
Bolton-born Hameed made huge strides in 2015. After making his first-class debut for the Red Rose in August he went onto establish himself at the top of the order as Lancashire earned immediate promotion back to the top flight.
Those inside Old Trafford were not entirely surprised by the way Hameed took to Championship cricket with relative comfort. After all he had been earmarked as a player of special talent for quite some time.
A right-handed batsman with an excellent defensive technique and sound temperament, Hameed -who has represented the County since he was nine – was recently awarded with a new four-year contract for his progress in 2015, which included a career-best 91 against Surrey in September.
What 2016 holds in store?
After the disappointment of missing out on a place in the England U19 World Cup squad, Hameed will make the step up to Division One cricket with an extra motivation to prove a few people wrong.
He will make the step up seemingly in pole position to partner Karl Brown at the top of the Lancashire order after club stalwart Paul Horton was released during the fall.
As fellow young teammate Luis Reece will testify though, opening against Division One bowling attacks is a totally different proposition to that encountered in the Second Division. Facing international-quality attacks in early season conditions will test Hameed’s technique and temperament more than ever before – but many say he’s got the game to prosper in such circumstances.
Saqib Mahmood (19) – Lancashire
Much like Hameed, Lancashire also have high hopes for right-arm quick Mahmood. Born in Birmingham but raised in the Lancs’ town of Rochdale, he’s progressed through the youth ranks at both county and international level – impressing many along the way.
A strong fast bowler who stands at 6’3, Mahmood has endured a memorable year. After signing his first professional contact with Lancashire at the beginning of last summer and winning the England Development Programme cricketer of the year award in May, he went onto play three T20 matches in June before recently excelling with the England U19 side in their World Cup campaign.
His 13 wickets at just 12.69 in that tournament were six more than any of his teammates individually managed and only bettered throughout by Fritz Coetzee of Namibia (15 wickets) and Nepal’s Sandeep Lamichhane (14).
What 2016 holds in store?
Like rivals Yorkshire, Lancashire aren’t short of fast bowling options. Breaking into a side that’s likely to include several options in Tom Bailey, Nathan Buck, George Edwards, Kyle Jarvis, Neil Wagner and the evergreen Glen Chapple won’t be an easy task for Mahmood.
But like with any side hoping to challenge on all three fronts over the course of the summer, injuries and rotation are expected to play there part, meaning that Mahmood could once again become involved across the shorter formats.
Mason Crane (19) – Hampshire
Crane is a rare commodity in English cricket, a highly promising young legspinner with a well disguised googly.
Such is the current concern over English spin bowling, that when an 18-year-old Crane took ten wickets at 33 across his first three first-class matches last summer – he was being heralded as a saviour to the country’s spin crisis.
Many, including former England batman Mark Butcher, were even going as far as suggesting he should have being picked for England’s tour of the UAE in October. In retrospect, Crane must be given a longer chance to learn his craft at county level before he’s considered for the international scene.
Growing up watching Shane Warne play for Hampshire during the 2000’s, Crane has been a member of the academy since he was 14 and has developed soundly under the tutelage of Rajesh Maru and Darren Flint.
Like Mahmood, he impressed during the U19 World Cup. As well as taking seven wickets at 23, his economy rate of just 3.97 suggests he can also play a holding role with the ball.
What 2016 holds in store?
With longtime first choice spinner Danny Briggs seeking pastures new by moving east to Sussex, Crane could be given plenty of opportunities to be the number one spinner across all formats for Hampshire. That is if they decide to play the extra slow option to accompany spinning allrounder Liam Dawson.
Either way, Crane is regarded as a special talent who will definitely be given opportunities later in the summer once the pitches begin to dry out.
Matthew Carter (19) – Nottinghamshire
Much like Crane for Hampshire, offspinner Carter arrived onto the first-class scene with a bang. Making his bow at Taunton in July, he returned first innings figures of 7-56 – the best by a spin bowler on Championship debut since Leicestershire’s Jack Walsh took 7-46 against Northamptonshire in 1938.
Although he went onto turn the first innings seven-for into match figures of 10-195, he was unable to starve off defeat for Notts as Somerset squeezed home by two-wickets.
Despite his exploits at the County Ground Carter, the younger brother of former-Notts bowler Andy, wasn’t called upon again for the remainder of the summer. Instead he combined his playing time between the Notts Second XI and Minor Counties action with Lincolnshire.
A tall, but slender offspinner with a classical action he was awarded with a new two-year contract at the conclusion of he 2015 season.
What 2016 holds in store?
Whilst one swallow doesn’t make a summer, the impact of Carter’s debut performance at Taunton has led to a real long-term hope that he can one day replace Graeme Swann at Trent Bridge.
The major problem facing Carter though is that Notts play half of their matches at the seamer-friendly Trent Bridge. In recent years they have preferred to get by with four fast-men and the part time left-arm spin of Samit Patel.
His great hope for more playing could lie with the new ‘no toss ruling’ that could result in the Trent Bridge ground staff producing more even surfaces as the summer wears on.
Sam Curran (17) – Surrey
At 17, Curran is perhaps the best of the lot. A quick left-armer with the ability to swing the ball back into the right handers, his rapid rise in 2015 was nothing short of miraculous. From Wellington Collage pupil to Surrey match-winner in the blink of an eye.
Opening the bowling on debut alongside his older brother Tom, Sam Curran became the youngest player ever to take a County Championship five-wicket haul when he claimed 5-101 against Kent in July, aged just 17 and 40 days old.
After such an impressive debut, Curran went onto finish the season with 22 first-class wickets at 26 – helping Surrey win the Second Division title and finish runners up in the Royal London Cup in the progress.
Also a very capable batsman, Curran has followed in the career footsteps of his not just his brother Tom but also their late father Kevin, who was a professional cricketer for Northants, Gloucestershire and Zimbabwe. Thankfully for England both Sam and Tom have rebuffed advances to represent Zimbabwe and pledged their futures with the Three Lions.
What 2016 holds in store?
Despite the arrivals of West Indian Ravi Rampaul and Derbyshire’s Mark Footitt and the presence of Matt Dunn, Jade Dernbach and Stuart Meaker, both Curran brothers should be among the first names on the Surrey team sheet in the County Championship this summer. Making the step up from Division Two will ensure plenty challenges along the way, most notably the greater standard of batting and quality in pitches prepared.
After a stand out U19 World Cup campaign, further England opportunities such as the England Lions would represent a successful summer for this hugely exciting talent.
Also look out for…
Joe Clarke (19) – Worcestershire, Karl Carver (19) – Yorkshire, Matt Critchley (19) – Derbyshire, Brad Taylor (19) – Hampshire.
While both hard-hitting allrounders are of a similar age – Stokes’ international career has taken off spectacularly in recent times. Marsh meanwhile remains, for now, a project player.
Mitchell Marsh will struggle to remember a better day than Saturday 6th February 2016. It began with news of a gigantic cheque arriving from the IPL, involved a tidy bowling spell of 2-30, and concluded with an unbeaten series-levelling knock of 69.
Whilst Marsh watched on at the non-strikers end as big John Hastings hit the winning runs in Wellington, I instead found myself 5,258 kms away observing another game of cricket. A far simpler encounter between two WACA: 1st Grade sides at the picturesque Stevens Reserve ground in South Fremantle, Western Australia.
The first day skirmish between Fremantle District CC and Perth CC, played under the unrelenting WA sun, seemed a world away from the Chappell-Hadlee duel at the ‘Cake Tin’, even if it did include a pair of highly impressive youngsters in Tom Abell and Jhye Richardson.
So what’s the link you may ask?
Well, Fremantle is where it had all began for the Perth-born Marsh. The international recognition and IPL paycheque (Marsh was bought by new franchise Pune Rising Supergiants in Saturday’s auction IPL for INR 4 crores – around $1 million AUD) are both just rewards for an upbringing that began, like many Australian cricketers before him, in Grade cricket.
While a busy international schedule has contrived to restrict Marsh to just two Grade appearances for Freo this summer (the last of which was in early December) and accumulated in him contributing just eight runs, he remains a player still highly regarded among his contemporaries at the club.
After making his First Grade bow in 2006/07, Marsh lived up to his enormous potential two summers later when, as a 17-year-old, he made 208 from 171-deliveries when batting at number five against Gosnells. A week later he became the youngest Australian to play in the country’s domestic one-day competition, debuting for Western Australia against South Australia at Bunbury.
Such lofty heights were followed with more success in the U19’s – where he captained the side to World Cup success in New Zealand in 2010. Among his compatriots in that side were current limited-overs teammates Josh Hazlewood, Kane Richardson and Adam Zampa.
Whilst Marsh was ascending through the ranks in Australian cricket, at the other end of the planet Ashes rivals England were unearthing a promising allrounder of their own.
Like Marsh, Ben Stokes also played in the 2010 U19 World Cup – impressing with a century against India in the process. The similarities run much deeper than that too. Both men were initially introduced into the international game via the limited overs route, with Stokes’ ODI debut preceding that of Marsh’s by just two months in August 2011.
They also both made their Test bows in trying circumstances. Stokes in the Ashes whitewash of 2013/14 and Marsh a year later as Australia were demolished 2-0 by Pakistan in the UAE.
While they share several comparisons, what currently sets them apart is the impact that Stokes has already had in Test cricket. With 23 Tests to his name, the Englishman has contributed three centuries (including a double), Marsh, on the other hand has just one fifty across his 13 matches – an 87 in his second Test at Abu Dhabi.
Up until securing his maiden century in his 44th international appearance (an unbeaten 102 off 84 deliveries against India at the SCG), Marsh had encountered a difficult summer with the bat.
Unable to pass fifty before that joyous occasion at the SCG, he spent most of the summer in the dressing room nursing pad-rash after the top five all scored a glut of runs in series against New Zealand and the West Indies. His 88 runs across five Tests owed as much to a lack of opportunity than to any particularly poor form.
Even so he’s spent the summer keeping the wolves at bay as both the tabloids and social media alike took turns to jump on his back – something which Shane Watson had himself once become accustomed to.
So desperate to get his premier allrounder some time in the middle, captain Steve Smith contrived to promote Marsh up the order in both the rain affected new year Test in Sydney and the fourth ODI against India in Canberra.
Twice promoted to bat at number three, he endured relatively subdued knocks of 21 off 63 (against the West Indies) and a 42-ball 33 (against India), stalling the earlier progress of the openers on both occasions. Only later in the ODI series did Smith’s plan come to fruition when Marsh ended his four-year wait for an international ton.
Were it not for his bowling – once seen as his weaker suit – he could well have found himself out of the side. After initial doubts over his ability to hold up an end, his bowling has come on leaps and bounds in both control and pace. This has allowed Smith to use both Mitchell’s (Johnson and Starc), along with James Pattinson, to attack in short bursts.
With both Johnson and Starc absent for the duration of the West Indies series, Marsh eventually found himself as the side’s enforcer. Regularly clocking up speeds in excess of 140kph during the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, he finished the match with career-best figures of 4-61.
After initially taking four matches and seven innings to take his first Test wicket, Marsh’s record of 21 wickets at 31.61 are a solid return for essentially a fourth seamer. That 12 of those wickets have come in his six matches this summer shows of the hard work he’s put in with bowling coach Craig McDermott.
Marsh’s upturn in fortunes have occurred at a time when Stokes is rightfully being showered in appraisals. Coming off the back of a breakthrough series in South Africa, Stokes’ stock has never been higher. Australians across the land must be left wondering if their own 24-year-old allrounder can develop into such an attacking match winner.
The Man-of-the-series performance against the formerly number-one ranked South African’s bookended a year in which Stokes has played an enterprising part in a new beginning for English cricket.
He finished the series second to only Hashim Amla on the run scoring charts with 411 runs at 58.71 and fourth on the wickets tally with 12 victims at 29.16. His thunderous innings of 258 at Cape Town was brutality and insouciance at its very best.
Despite Stokes taking a little while to find his feet at the international level (he made three successive ducks against India in his second series in 2014) his Test performances in the past year have been highly impressive. Sitting alongside the Cape Town 258 are the 92 & 101 he made against New Zealand at Lords and the second innings 6-36 against Australia at Trent Bridge – both in the past twelve months.
On the surface combined Test batting (33.73) and bowling (38.07) averages hardly suggest a pathway to greatness for Stokes. But similar to both Ian Botham and Andrew Flintoff before him, it’s his ability to stand up and be counted that marks the redhead out as a dangerous customer in all forms of the game.
His inclusion adds much needed balance to an England side, not only ensuring Alastair Cook can play five bowlers, but also allowing Moeen Ali (a man with 14 first-class hundreds to his name) to bat at number eight. Rod Marsh and his selection committee will hope Marsh can soon fulfil a similar role for Australia.
While Marsh has a poor batting average of 24.64 throughout the 21 times he’s walked to the middle in Test cricket, it must be noted that at times, he’s been asked to perform a selfless act when batting with a declaration looming.
Despite his often infuriating ability to throw his wicket away when well set, Australia must resist the urge to drop Marsh down to number seven and bat keeper Peter Nevill ahead of him. Such theories were muted at the conclusion of November’s day/night Test in Adelaide – where Nevill scored an accomplished first-innings 66 in trying conditions. Thankfully for Marsh’s development those ideas were soon quickly forgotten.
After started out as a number six, Stokes was briefly shifted down to number seven during England’s tour of the Caribbean last spring. The move, aided by a strong desire to promote Moeen up the order, only truly resulted in Stokes adopting a reckless attitude to batting.
“If you pick someone to bat in a certain place they’ll bat that way” – words of former Durham teammate Stephen Harmison on describing Stokes’ demotion in the order last year.
Fortunately for Stokes’ development as a batsman, the dismissal of coach Peter Moores – following that disastrous series in the West Indies – abetted his return up the order. The decision to reinstate him at six – made by then interim-coach Paul Farbrace – has since being vindicated with the Left-hander excelling under on the added responsibility.
For Marsh the forthcoming two-Test series in New Zealand looms as a potentially defining one. With the ball expected to swing and seam as it did in England last winter, Trent Boult and co are sure to demand a thorough test of his defensive technique. A technique previously found wanting in such conditions.
With the ball, he also has a huge role to play for skipper Smith. With Starc still out injured and doubts over the short term fitness of both Pattinson and Peter Siddle, expect Marsh to bowl his fair share of tough overs.
There’s certainly a lot to admire about both Stokes and Marsh. In an era when allrounders in Test cricket are often portrayed as something that closely resembles gold dust, having one equipped to bat in a positive manner at number six, whilst also being able to bowl 140kph-plus as a fourth-change seamer, is invaluable.
Could next year’s Ashes campaign be a battle of the allrounders?
Once heralded as the future of West Indian batting, Darren Bravo has instead found himself stuck inside the shadow of his hero Brian Lara.
One of the most fascinating aspects of cricket is defining its different contrasts throughout various eras and generations.
Whether its hours spend down the local pub discussing the great teams and individual players with friends or colleagues, or time spent self analysing various matches and stats – trying to determine the benchmark between very good and great.
Defining players throughout eras is a complex and usually unfulfilling task – after all Test cricket has changed tremendously throughout the past century. From timeless matches, to covered pitches, bigger bats and now day/night matches – it’s almost impossible to compare a player from, say…the 1960’s to one in the present day.
It does though become easier defining greatness among contemporises. By this logic we can assume that the likes of Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Jacques Kallis were a cut above the rest during the 1990’s and 2000’s. Messrs AB de Villiers and Kumar Sangakkara, have since continued this batting excellence into the present.
What about the future batting greats?
Martin Crowe, the former New Zealand batsman, was the first to mute the idea of “Test cricket’s young Fab Four”. In an article published on ESPNcricinfo in August 2014, Crowe suggested that Test cricket’s next four batting superstars would be: Virat Kohli (India), Joe Root (England), Steven Smith (Australia) and Kane Williamson (New Zealand).
Even back then it was hard to argue against the four choices given, except – I believed there was one name missing – Darren Bravo of the West Indies.
If Kohli was the new Tendulkar, Root the heir apparent to Michael Vaughan, Smith the next Steve Waugh and Williamson, of course, the next Martin Crowe, then surely wasn’t Bravo the new Lara?
At the time of the publication, (August 29th 2014) Bravo was very much holding his own as a Test batsman. In fact his record was better than those of Kohli, Smith and Williamson.
Test batting stats before August 29th 2014
Bravo – 2196 runs at 43.92 (30 matches)
Root – 1732 runs at 50.94 (22 matches)
Kohli – 1855 runs at 39.46 (29 matches)
Williamson – 2377 runs at 40.28 (34 matches)
Smith – 1361 runs at 40.02 (20 matches)
Test batting stats since August 29th 2014
Bravo – 545 runs at 32.05 (9 matches)
Root – 1288 runs at 61.33 (13 matches)
Kohli – 1139 runs at 54.23 (12 matches)
Williamson – 1250 runs at 78.12 (10 matches)
Smith – 2015 runs at 74.62 (16 matches)
However, as time passes it’s becoming much more difficult to argue against his non-inclusion in Crowe’s thoughts. On the other hand, the wisdom shown to pick out Kohli, Root, Smith and Williamson is becoming extremely well vindicated.
While the four mentioned by Crowe have all since taken their batting to the next level, Bravo has been left trailing in their wake. His batting has regressed alarmingly, so much so that across seven Tests this calendar year he’s averaging just 30.71 – with no hundreds. A far cry from the player once regarded as a future great by no finer judges than Lara and Steve Waugh.
So what has happened to the once promising career of Darren Bravo?
After a solid start to his Test career – which peaked with career high average of 52.50 after 13 Tests –his average has now plummeted to an ordinary 40.91 after 39 Tests.
“Darren Bravo from the West Indies. He is identical to Brian Lara in every way. He is world cricket’s next superstar, no doubt.” – Steve Waugh (February 2012)
When at his best, the Lara comparisons are never far away. As a youngster he used to hone his game solely on his first cousin. Only watching cricket on television because of Lara, as soon as ‘The Prince’ was dismissed, Bravo would switch off the TV and head outdoors to bat himself.
Such was the obsession, he would also skip school just to go and admire Lara at practice. Born in the same north Trinidadian village of Santa Cruz, the pair has grown close over the years. Bravo has, on more than one occasion, crediting Lara with helping him correct both technical and mental deficiencies.
But the similarities run much deeper than that – at times their mannerisms at the crease are so alike it’s almost freaky. The high back-lift, the flowing cover drive and the excellence against subcontinental spin bowling are all traits shared by the two men. However, the freakiest resemblance between the pair was their identical batting records after 12 Tests – both men had scored 941 runs at 47.05.
While Lara continued his path towards greatness during a 131-Test match career, Bravo has so far struggled to maintain the consistency required to differentiate between being a good and a great batsman.
Going into their three-match Test tour of Australia, the West Indies need their elegant left-hander to fire more than ever. Besides Marlon Samuels, Bravo, 26, is the most experienced batsman in a side shorn of the onetime experience of Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and Darren’s older half-brother Dwayne.
While the younger Bravo made three starts (50, 31 & 61) in four innings during the recent two-Test tour of Sri Lanka, his average has continued a steady decline throughout the past few years. After averaging 37 in 2012, 2013 and 2014, he’s barely touched 30 in 2015. In a nutshell – not good enough for a man of his obvious talents.
Bravo during his maiden Test double-hundred in Dunedin. Photo Credit: Getty Images.
Personal issues – which have forced him out of away series in New Zealand and South Africa during the past two years – could well be to blame. As could the added expectations and responsibilities placed on his shoulders following the exile of many experienced teammates.
Despite a brief flirtation with IPL side Deccan Chargers in 2012, Bravo has remained soundly loyal to the West Indies cause throughout the tough times. Times that have seen the Test side striped of their prize assists by the riches of various worldwide T20 franchises.
While it’s certainly admirable that Bravo still regards Test cricket as ‘the ultimate’, it’s certainly not a view currently shared by many across the Caribbean. Onetime Test players Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Lendl Simmons, Sunil Narine and Andre Russell now all exclusively play just limited overs internationals, while others such as Kieron Pollard, Samuel Badree and Kevon Cooper have too made their names almost solely in T20 cricket.
Despite the emergence of a new group of young Test batsman – headlined by Jermaine Blackwood and Kraigg Brathwaite – the region is struggling to cope without the capabilities and international know-how of the aforementioned nine.
With the fluctuating career of Samuels showing signs of reaching its conclusion, Bravo must be on hand to recapture the form he showcased in late 2011. This purple patch saw him register a maiden Test hundred in Bangladesh (195 in Dhaka) before following it up with successive hundreds (136 in Kolkata & 166 in Mumbai) in India just weeks later.
Without a hundred in his first nine matches, three followed in just four matches; Bravo had arrived on the international stage. Perhaps it was a late summer stint with County side Nottinghamshire that led to his upturn in fortunes, either way it was another year until he scored his fourth Test hundred – again in Bangladesh (127 in Khulna).
A further year passed before he scored his fifth hundred, this time a career best 218 against New Zealand in Dunedin. After several stints away from the Test side, he has scored just one further century since, 109 on his home ground Queen’s Park Oval, way back in June 2014.
Sadly Bravo isn’t the only recent young West Indian batsman to make a strong introduction to Test cricket, before fading away. Fellow Trinidadian Adrian Barath made a superb counterattacking hundred on debut at the Gabba six years ago; he’s since drifted away – not just from the international scene, but from regional cricket too.
Like Barath, fellow opener Kieran Powell has also suffered a similarly disheartening fate. A product of Somerset’s illustrious Millfield School, Powell played his last Test against New Zealand in June 2014 before being dropped in favour of the uncapped Leon Johnson.
He’s endured a tough time since the international breakthrough that saw him register a maiden Test hundred against New Zealand in 2012. An innings that was backed up with twin centuries in Bangladesh later that year.
Like Bravo, the Nevis-born Powell has suffered from personal issues in the latter half of his international career – now just 25; he was last seen playing first-class cricket for Tamil Union in the Sri Lankan Premier League tournament in March.
Unlike Barath and Powell, Bravo is still very much central to the West Indies future plans. Building a team around him along with the likes of Brathwaite, Blackwood and Captain Jason Holder remains vital – especially if the West Indies still harbour any hopes of touching past glories.
Despite a couple of lean years, Bravo’s career shouldn’t yet be viewed as a failure. Only seven months ago he showcased the best of his batting when contributing a match-winning 82 against an English attack that included both James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
Turning the frequent starts into regular hundreds should be a future goal that Bravo sets himself. Upcoming visits to Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney (where Lara once made a majestic 277) would be good places to begin.
For ‘Lil’ Bravo – it’s time to step out of Brian Lara’s shadow.
The folk from Yorkshire and Australia have shared cricketing links for over a century.
Watching England play Australia in the recent ODI at Headingley really got me thinking. Why as an Englishman do I have such a soft spot for the Australian’s and their never say die attitude?
As Glenn Maxwell pulled off two miraculous catches – one a full length grab at point to get rid of the dangerous Eoin Morgan, the other a seemingly impossible piece of work in front of the Western Terrace boundary to take down Liam Plunkett – It finally came to me. We’re pretty alike us Yorkshiremen and those Australians.
Even though some from “God’s Own County” might be too proud or stubborn to admit it, there are plenty of similarities between themselves and their compatriots from Down Under. Maybe it’s the shared shear bloody-mindedness to win at any cost, or perhaps the nature of the personalities. Both are assumed to be brash and uncomplicated people at times – certainly on the cricket field. But make no mistake about it, win or lose, there will always remain a sense of pride and respect between them.
Many of the same values are shared between t’Yorkshire folk and those ‘Stralian’s, and not just on the cricket field. Rugby League has shared strong links between Yorkshire and Australia for generations with players and coaches regularly moving between the Super League (of which six teams are based in Yorkshire) and Australia’s NRL. Furthermore in football, Australian-born pair Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka were paramount to Leeds United’s success at the turn of the century.
The association with Yorkshire and Australian cricket goes back afar. Look through the Wisden archives and you will find many a tough battle between an unshakable and assured Yorkshireman and his Aussie counterpart. Think Hedley Verity against Sir Donald Bradman or Ray Illingworth against Ian Chappell or even Geoffrey Boycott verses Dennis Lillee – there is a world of history between England’s biggest county and the former British colony and to this day the pair continue to have strong links.
Certainly for this Yorkshireman, many of my early cricketing memories are intertwined with my first vague cognizance of the land Down Under. Be it the soothing and easily recognisable voice of Richie Benaud or stories from my grandmother – who watched on as Bradman led his invincibles side against an HDG Leveson-Gower’s XI at Scarborough in 1948.
Bradman of course had his own special connection with Yorkshire. It was at Headingley, in which he scored his highest Test score of 334 on the Ashes tour of 1930. Three hundred and nine of those runs were made on the opening day as t’Yorkshiremen flocked in from all around to witness the beginning of the greatest career of them all. The Don would go on to average 192 at the famous Leeds ground.
When Yorkshire CCC announced in 1991 that they were to abandon their unwritten policy of only allowing those born within the borders of the county to represent them, they originally turned to an Australian.
Before Sachin Tendulkar, then just 18, famously became the first non-Yorkshireman to play for the county, Australian seamer Craig McDermott was initially lined up for the role, however when injury ruled him out Yorkshire instead went down a different route.
McDermott would have become the first of a long list of Australians to represent the White Rose but instead that mantle went to Michael Bevan. The Pyjama Picasso signed in 1995 and played for two summers. Whilst he scored nine centuries and averaged 58 in his first-class assignments, typically with Bevan, it was the limited overs stuff in which he really excelled. In fact no Yorkshire cricketer – who has appeared in at least ten List-A matches, has bettered his average of 61.82.
Once Bevan was selected for Australia’s 1997 Ashes campaign, opener Michael Slater was originally intended as an overseas replacement, but when he was surprisingly involved on that same tour, Yorkshire were led to the services of a 27-year-old South Australian going by the name of Darren Lehmann. The rest, as they say is history.
For seven summers between 1997 and 2006, ‘Boof’ dominated the shires, scoring over 14,000 runs across his 88 first-class matches in the process. Yorkshiremen don’t easily accept outsiders but boy did they respected this one. Lehmann’s first-class average of 68.76 is higher than anyone else with at least 500 runs for the Tykes.
His 1,416 Championship runs in 2001 marshalled Yorkshire towards their first title in 33 painfully barren years. For this inspiring deed, Lehmann’s name will be forever sketched into Yorkshire folklore. The ideal overseas player, he was also the original Australian flag bearer for Yorkshire cricket. He famously went on to sign off with an innings of 339 against Durham at Headingley in 2006, helping his adopted county save face and starve off relegation in the process.
Of the 30 overseas players employed by the county since 1992, 14 have been Australians. After the early successes of Bevan and Lehmann the county had a substantial pulling power when it came to attracting the Aussies and prominent names arrived in the following summers: Greg Blewett (1999), Matthew Elliott and Simon Katich (2002), Damien Martyn (2003), Phil Jaques (2004-05/2012-13), Ian Harvey (2004-05), Mark Cleary (2005), Jason Gillespie (2006-08), Clint McKay (2010), Mitchell Starc (2012), Aaron Finch (2014-15) and Glenn Maxwell (2015) have all served Yorkies cricket with varying degrees of success since.
For Gillespie, a late career flourish was never really in the offering as his two summer’s mustered just 59 wickets at 34; howbeit his appointment as first team coach in 2012 has led the county to new highs not seen in these pastures since the late 1960’s. It appears no coincidence that the three and only times Yorkshire have won the County Championship since the teams of Brian Close five decades ago, they have been under the keen watch of an Australian. Wayne Clark led the way in 2001, before Gillespie emerged with consecutive honours in 2014-15 to reinstate Yorkshire as the powerhouse of old.
After being overlooked for the England coaching position earlier in the summer, it’s not out of the question that Gillespie will one day follow Lehmann into leading his country – Is it too early to suggest that Yorkshire is now a breeding ground for Australian cricket?
Maxwell has certainly benefitted from his short stint at Headingley this summer, originally just signed for the NatWest Blast; ensuing injuries sustained to compatriot Finch opened the door for his involvement in red ball cricket and a solid showing has subsequently led to a Test recall for next month’s tour of Bangladesh.
Maybe the old saying should now read “A strong Yorkshire, strong Australia.”
After all, we’re pretty alike us Yorkshiremen and those Australians.