Future looks bright as young Englishmen shine in week 1 of County season

April 13, 2011

It was the earliest start in the history of the County Championship which would have had the men is suites praying for a decent week’s weather. We got better than that, as all games were accompanied by perfect blue sky for the duration. Leicestershire, Kent, Gloucestershire, and Lancashire all won their opening match which is a great feeling after tough pre-season schedules.

With many of the Counties big name players currently taking part in the IPL it leaves opportunities for Counties to blood their younger players. What we have seen already this season is that there is no lack of talent coming through with strong performances from these players across the board.

In a tight game at Chelmsford, Kent edged out Essex by 57 runs in the South-East derby. The key contribution came in Kent’s first innings when Sam Northeast batted maturely with the tail ensuring Kent got to a competitive score of 247. Northeast, a product of Kent’s academy, finished with 112 which in the end proved pivotal in the success of his team.

Two 19 year olds that caught the eye in the drawn match at The Rose bowl, in the game between Hampshire and Durham were, Danny Briggs and Ben Stokes. Briggs a tall left arm spinner that spent the winter in the Caribbean with the England Lions, is very highly rated in this part of the world. Briggs has found success from a very early age, having already picked up 81 first class victims including 5 wickets in Durham’s first innings. If Briggs keeps progressing England could find themselves with the best balances attack in world cricket with the Hampshire man complementing Graeme Swann’s off breaks.

The other youngster with a big future that played in this match is Durham’s Ben Stokes. Stokes has an X factor about his cricket that you rarely see with any players. Stokes is a left handed batsman who strikes the ball as cleanly as any batsman on the County circuit. In this game alone hit he 5 consecutive sixes off the unfortunate Liam Dawson, on his way to a blistering 135 not out. England will be watching Stokes’ progress with great interest, and don’t be surprised to find Stokes lining up in an ODI for England this summer.

Surrey’s Stuart Meaker is quickly making a name for himself at The Oval. He took 6 wickets in the drawn game against Northamptonshire, but what impresses everyone about Meaker is his pace. Pace bowling is something that will never go out of fashion, quite simply because no batter really enjoys it. We saw that in the 70‘s and 80’s when touring sides arrived in the Caribbean with kit bags full of chest pads and arm guards. Meaker bowls up over 90mph, and with an ever improving accuracy and knowledge of control, Meaker could be a big star for England in the future.

There are also many more young players making their mark on the County scene. It is vital that the ECB promotes participation of these younger players through abandoning Kolpak players, and not just saying to Counties we will give you more money if you play your youngsters. That way we will find the balance between ensuring experienced English players that are still good enough, are still competing, and making the cricket tough enough so that our young players do not get a fright when selected for England.

I look forward to watching all these players perform in County cricket this summer and who knows maybe even with three lions across their chests.


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