With the 2016 county season fast approaching, ecb.co.uk picks a player from each of the first-class counties who could make a name for themselves during the upcoming campaign.
Derbyshire – Matthew Critchley
Initially seen as a promising leg-spinner, Critchley made Derbyshire history last May when he became the county’s youngest first-class centurion with 137 against Northamptonshire. That knock beat off competition from the likes of Martin Guptill and Michael di Venuto to be named the club’s best ton this century over the winter, while the 19-year-old also penned his first professional deal ahead of the new season.
Durham – Jack Burnham
A tall and powerful batsman, Burnham was bowled for a duck by Liam Plunkett at Scarborough on debut at Scarborough, but swiftly proved his worth with Durham’s only half-century in the second innings and was a star at the recent Under-19 World Cup. His three centuries in six outings ensured he finished as the tournament’s leading run-scorer despite England’s quarter-final exit.
Essex – Aaron Beard
Picking an 18-year-old who has never appeared for his county as one to watch may not be the obvious choice, but Beard has been tipped for big things since he turned out as a substitute fielder for England at the age of 15. The right-arm seamer also got to bowl in the nets with James Anderson and Stuart Broad on that occasion and, now aged 18, has been handed a two-year deal at Chelmsford after overcoming a couple of injury-plagued years.
Glamorgan – Nick Selman
Born in Brisbane, Selman holds duel Australian and British citizenship. The 20-year-old has played for Queensland Under-19s, as well as Glamorgan and Kent’s second XIs, but is yet to gain first-class experience. The opening batsman may not have to wait long for a chance in 2016, however, with Glamorgan short of options at the top of the order.
Gloucestershire – George Hankins
Teenager Hankins was handed a two-year deal in October after coming through the Royal London One-Day Cup winner’s academy. The batsman broke Daniel Bell-Drummond’s record for most runs in a season at Millfield School last season, and has also made some sizeable scores in the Second XI.
Hampshire – Mason Crane
Possibly due to Shane Warne’s influence during his time with the club, Hampshire have made a habit of uncovering promising spinners in recent years. Liam Dawson will be part of England’s World Twenty20 squad next month, Danny Briggs – now of Sussex – also represented his country, and Brad Taylor captained England at the recent Under-19 World Cup. But leg-spinner Crane, who was part the team in Bangladesh alongside Taylor, gets the nod as one to watch at Hampshire. Capable of sharp turn, the 19-year-old took 5-35 against Warwickshire in only his second first-class outing last summer.
Kent – Adam Rouse
The Zimbabwe-born 23-year-old was highly regarded at Hampshire and represented England at Under-19 level, but found Michael Bates and Adam Wheater difficult to dislodge from the wicketkeeper-batsman position. That saw him leave for Gloucestershire, where Geraint Jones and Gareth Roderick blocked his path to the first team. Now at Kent, who are renowned for blooding young players, Rouse is likely to get his chance to shine due to Sam Billings’ increasing England commitments.
Lancashire – Saqib Mahmood
Like Burnham, Mahmood was one of England’s brightest lights at the Under-19 World Cup. The seamer’s 13 wickets came at just 12.69, and he was as effective with the old ball as the new cherry. The 19-year-old faces competition from fellow young quicks Gavin Griffiths and George Edwards for a place at Emirates Old Trafford in 2016.
Leicestershire – Aadil Ali
One of the stars of Leicestershire’s Second XI side which completed the treble ion 2014, the 21-year-old Ali did not find the first-team transition straightforward in 2015 but produced a marathon 42 in a successful chase of 273 against Derbyshire.
Middlesex – Max Holden
Holden was given a four-year contract by Middlesex last year despite the fact he is yet to make his debut in county cricket. The left-handed opening batsman made a couple of half-centuries for England in the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year, and is highly though of at Lord’s.
Nottinghamshire – Tom Moores
The son of former England Head Coach Peter, Moores is a wicketkeeper and has followed his father to Trent Bridge having initially been part of the Leicestershire youth set-up. The 19-year-old made scores of 85 and 47 in his two innings at the Under-19 World Cup and could prove to be Chris Read’s long-term successor at Trent Bridge.
Northamptonshire – Saif Zaib
Aged just 17, left-handed all-rounder Zaib has already made five limited-overs appearances for Northants. He has also featured for England in age-group cricket, and has the talent to establish himself at Wantage Road this year.
Somerset – George Bartlett
The 17-year-old had such a strong season at Millfield School in 2015 that he was fast-tracked to the England Under-19s squad and thrashed a quick-fire 94 on debut last December to secure his place at the World Cup. He made 48 against eventual champions West Indies, and his Somerset debut cannot be far away.
Surrey – Dominic Sibley
Remarkably it is now three years since Sibley became the youngest double centurion in County Championship history with 242 against Yorkshire on only his third first-class outing. Perhaps too much was expected of the 20-year-old after such a spectacular start, as he has endured a couple of low-key seasons with the bat since. Sibley will be looking to cement his place at the Kia Oval in 2016.
Sussex – George Garton
A tall left-arm seamer, Garton is another who is yet to make his county debut. The 18-year-old made England’s Under-19 World Cup squad, having shown he could move the ball around in Asian conditions before Christmas, and took 2-18 against Namibia Under-19s.
Warwickshire – Alex Mellor
At 24, left-handed wicketkeeper-batsman Mellor is one of the older players on this list, but impressed enough in Warwickshire’s Second XI last season to be handed a first professional contract for the 2014 season. Mellor came to prominence in Minor Counties cricket with Staffordshire, scoring a double century and taking 11 catches in a match against Suffolk last term.
Worcestershire – Joe Clarke
The 19-year-old has arguably already enjoyed his breakthrough year, having impressed with Worcestershire enough towards the end of 2015 to be fast-tracked to the England Lions set-up. Having already made centuries in Championship and one-day cricket for his county, Clarke will be hoping to kick on in 2016. If he does, talk of him being a future England opener will increase.
Yorkshire – Jared Warner
Another of England’s Under-19 World Cup party, Warner is a seamer from Wakefield and has often share the new ball with Lancashire’s Masood when representing his country. The 19-year-old was handed a junior professional contract at Headingley in December.