New stars to bank on
County cricket's young guns can push their case for England recognition in the CB40, says Ian Ward.
Last Updated: 22/04/11 9:56am
County cricket's young guns have a great chance to push their case for England recognition in this year's Clydesdale Bank 40.
While there are only a handful issues to resolve in the Test side - Stuart Broad's fitness, Ajmal Shahzad's role, Paul Collingwood's long-term replacement to name three - the make-up of England's one-day team is much more fluid, starting with the question of how long Andrew Strauss will continue as captain.
The next World Cup may be four years away, but it's never too early to make the selectors sit up and take notice - just as Chris Woakes did on his three ODI appearances in Australia earlier this year.
Warwickshire's Woakes and the likes of James Vince and Danny Briggs, both of Hampshire, are exactly the type of young cricketers who have every chance of progressing to the highest level.
Happily, they are not the only ones either: Craig Kieswetter will no doubt force his way back into the reckoning, Jos Buttler had a terrific season last year and the likes of Ben Stokes, Jade Dernbach, Tom Maynard and James Hildreth are not far away.
Some will say the county Academy systems and England Lions programmes are starting to bear fruit; others will argue that more England-qualified cricketers have the chance to play at an early age because fewer Kolpak players are clogging up the county system.
Either way, it bodes well for the future.
Hampshire are one county reaping the benefits. In Vince they have a terrific batsman with all the attributes to move forward; he's level-headed, has a good technique and times the ball sweetly.
Then there's spinner Briggs, who has followed up a fantastic 2010 by excelling for the England Lions. He first came to our attention in limited-overs cricket but after taking 33 wickets at 19 in the West Indies Regional four-day competition earlier this year it's clear he'll be a threat in all formats.
Every side needs a balance, of course, and Hampshire have done well to hold onto Sean Ervine, a genuine all-rounder who can win games with bat or ball.
With senior players of the calibre of Dimitri Mascarenhas, Nic Pothas, Kabir Ali and Simon Jones battling back to fitness - and Imran Tahir still recovering from a broken thumb - Ervine's input and Dominic Cork's leadership take on even greater significance.
Hampshire begin their CB40 campaign against last year's champions, Warwickshire, who finished the season incredibly strongly in all competitions, bursting across the line as other teams stumbled.
That was reflected in September's final at Lord's where Somerset made a pretty decent start with the bat before collapsing from 176-3 to 199 all out as the Bears kept going at them.
Ian Bell then saw Warwickshire home with an innings of pure quality. He won't be playing this Sunday, though, and neither will Jonathan Trott so once again Ashley Giles' side will have to get used to doing without their England stars for a large part of the season.
But they have signed Will Porterfield, a good young cricketer with an astute cricket brain from what I can gather from watching him lead Ireland in the World Cup, and they also have the experience of Mohammad Yousuf and the impressive Woakes in their ranks.
Many are tipping Woakes for great things and no wonder. When he first came onto the scene it was all about Woakes 'the seamer' but he proved in Australia that he can bat too, which is a priceless commodity when you are talking about the balance of any future England side.
Warwickshire are developing on the field and off it too, although they still have a little way to go to match the outstanding facilities at the Rose Bowl and the Riverside. The catalyst for all this is Giles, who has done an outstanding job.
He and Giles White are both very good, young English coaches. White is a little like Gary Kirsten in many ways - you don't see or hear a lot from him, but he gets the job done.
Giles is a little bit different in as much as his profile as an Ashes winner and England selector is higher but his methods have been no less effective. It's great to see them going well.
Both will want to hit the ground running because it is incredibly tough to get out of the group stages of the CB40, let alone go on and win it.
With only the winners of each of the three groups and the best-placed runner-up going through to the semi-finals, it's crucial that each side makes a solid start before the mid-summer break.
As the weather has been so brilliant recently, I hope that the pitch at the Rose Bowl - and those around the country - will be flat for one-day cricket.
Obviously you want a bit of pace and bounce in it for the bowlers, but we don't want the ball jagging around.
We ask our players to go and whack the ball at the top of the order when they go to India and Sri Lanka, yet when they come back to English conditions at the start of the year they find the ball is seaming around and doing all sorts.
That means they are less used to being able to stand and deliver - a brand of cricket that served India and Sri Lanka so well in the World Cup, and one we want England players present and future to champion.