Faith in Youth

With this year’s County Championship already upon us, I have picked out a squad of eleven English youngsters who will be aiming to impress this season. The squad includes five batsman, a wicket keeper, two potential all-rounders, and three main bowlers. Who knows – these young men may well develop into a future England Test cricket team! Each player in the team is no more than 21 years of age.

Billy Godleman – Essex

Billy Godleman can boast receiving a county contract at 17. In 2005, he became the second-youngest first-class debutant for Middlesex having previously made three hundreds for Middlesex second XI. When called up for the England U-19 team he scored an unbeaten 149 in an ODI in 2007 against Pakistan, the highest individual innings for England at youth level.

36 matches, batting average of 32.26, 2 hundreds and 10 fifties

Alex Hales – Nottinghamshire

Alex Hales is a tall opening batsman who has been described as “a natural timer of the ball who has worked hard at his game and impressed in style”. In an impressive 2007 with the bat, he scored over 800 runs in all matches. While on trial with Nottinghamshire, he made scores of 220, 135 and two 95s.In August 2009, Hales hit the top score in the Pro40 2009, smashing an unbeaten 150 off just 102 balls against Worcestershire.

8 matches, batting average of 40.63, 4 fifties

Sam Northeast – Kent

In 2005 he made his Kent second XI debut against Durham and scored 96, as well as playing for England Under-15s. In 2006 he was included in a strong XI against the touring Sri Lankans, hitting 62. He enjoyed an excellent tri-series in Sri Lanka in 2007 – putting on 152 with Billy Godleman in one of the matches – and was part of England’s Under-19 World Cup squad in 2008.

12 matches, batting average of 35.36, 1 hundred and 3 fifties

James Taylor – Leicestershire

James Taylor has a bright future ahead of him after quickly establishing a place in the Leicestershire side. A short batsman, he has adapted to the professional game with impressive results. A prolific 2009 season earned him the Cricket Writers’ Club Young Player of the Year award and he was also named the PCA Young Player of the Year. Taylor has previously represented England Under-19s, including at the 2008 World Cup, having progressed from Minor Counties cricket with Shropshire en route to Leicestershire.

22 matches, batting average of 46.78, 3 hundreds and 7 fifties

Tom Westley – Essex

Tom Westley is a promising young batsman who joined the Essex Academy as a 14 year old in 2003 and has since worked his way into the first-team squad. Despite struggling to make runs in the second XI last season, he did show good signs with the ball as an off-spinner. He has impressed many at Essex, including Graham Gooch, with his ability with the bat and they also believe he can develop into a useful off-spinner– he took match figures of 9-91 against Middlesex second XI last season. His chances have improved with the losses experienced by Essex to their batting order and he will seek to establish a regular spot in the side.

25 matches, batting average of 30.77, 1 hundred and 5 fifties

Jonathan Bairstow – Yorkshire

Right-handed batsman and wicket-keeper, he is the son of former Yorkshire and England keeper David Bairstow. During the 2008 season he played second XI cricket for Yorkshire, scoring 308 runs at an average of 61.60. Bairstow began the 2009 season playing second XI cricket, but after scoring 202 not out against Leicestershire second XI he was called into the first-team where he top scored in the Yorkshire second innings with an unbeaten 82.

12 matches, batting average of 45.53, 6 fifties

Liam Dawson – Hampshire

A left-arm spinner with a bright future, Liam Dawson has attracted positive reviews from Shane Warne, who believes Dawson can develop into a good all-rounder. So far, his bowling has been his primary role and he impressed for England U-19s in 2007-08 against Pakistan, where his spin collected wickets and maintained control during the two-Test series. He was selected for England’s Under-19 World Cup squad in 2008.

21 matches, batting average of 29.38, 1 hundred and 4 fifties, 16 wickets @ 39.62

James Harris – Glamorgan

James Harris is an all-rounder whose strength is his seam bowling. He was the youngest person to appear for Glamorgan second XI in 2005, just before he turned 15. He made his first-class debut aged just 16, and just weeks later became the first 17 year-old to take a seven wicket haul in the Championship. He was rewarded for his promising debut season with a trip to India in late 2007 as part of the England Performance Programme squad, and was included by England in the Under-19 World Cup in 2008.

28 matches, batting average of 19.34, 2 fifties, 87 wickets @ 30.70 (2 five wicket hauls, 1 ten wicket haul)

Luke Fletcher – Nottinghamshire

A tall powerfully-built fast bowler, Fletcher first represented Nottinghamshire’s second XI in 2007. He impressed in the 2009 season with 29 wickets at 27.58, enough to earn him a category C contract with the England performance squad. In just his fifth first-class appearance Fletcher proved his all-round credentials by hitting his top score of 92 after coming in at 147-7 when his side were struggling, a match that Nottinghamshire went on to win comfortably, with Fletcher picking up five wickets in the match.

9 matches, batting average of 24.20, 1 fifty, 30 wickets @ 29.00

Stuart Meaker – Surrey

A fast bowler and lower middle-order batsman, Meaker came to England in 2001, moving from Durban in South Africa. His chances for Surrey were limited in 2008, but there were no shortage of rumours about his pace and potential. He made his Championship debut in Surrey’s last match of the summer and took 3 for 86, showing enough hostility and pace to encourage. He has apparently been clocked at 96mph!

8 matches, batting average of 23.09, 2 fifties, 15 wickets @ 48.26

Scott Borthwick – Durham

Scott Borthwick is a promising leg-spinner. He was rudely thrown into the limelight when, live on TV, he was smashed for five successive sixes by Essex’s James Foster to lose a Pro40 game at the end of the 2009 season. However, surrounded by a battery of pace-men at Durham he enjoyed a good outing with the pink ball against the MCC, taking eight wickets in the game to set up his 2010 season.

2 matches, batting average of 13.00, 11 wickets @ 16.27

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