County Championship: Which batsmen have boosted England Test claims?
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Last Updated: 16/04/19 10:00am
The first two rounds of the County Championship have been completed – so which batsmen gave a nudge to England's selectors ahead of an Ashes summer?
With a month of white-ball cricket ahead for players in the Royal London One-Day Cup, Sky Sports Cricket analyses which players may have boosted their Test claims...
After what seems like an eternity in the wilderness, Hameed looks to have rediscovered his form and flair with the bat.
The 22-year-old tasted a short burst of success on the international circuit in November 2016 when he was drafted into the England side for the Test series in India to open alongside Alastair Cook, hitting two half-centuries in three matches.
But, after breaking his little finger on his left hand in the third Test, Hameed was forced to return home and the injury led to a significant slump in form.
During the 2017 and 2018 County Championship seasons he failed to score a century, and last season averaged just 9.70 from 10 matches with a top score of just 31.
Hameed showed in the second round of this season's County Championship, though, that his immense talent had not left him.
At Lord's, against a Middlesex pace attack of Toby Roland-Jones, Steve Finn, Tim Murtagh and James Harris, the Lancashire opener played on the front foot from ball one, oozing confidence - no doubt gained from his double-century against Loughborough MCCU the previous week.
A sublime six into the Grandstand off Roland-Jones brought up his first three-figure score in a first-class match since August 2016, with his innings of 117 also including 17 fours - with chief selector Ed Smith watching on at Lord's.
Talk of an immediate return to the Test side might be premature but, with nine rounds before England are likely to name their Test squad for the summer, there is plenty of time for Hameed to push his case further.
A couple of seasons ago, Moeen Ali tipped then Worcestershire team-mate Clarke to be a future England player, lauding him with the high praise of claiming he had the makings of being as good a batsman as captain Joe Root.
Having joined Nottinghamshire in September 2018, the 22-year-old had a debut to remember, scoring a century in his first innings for his new county before following it up with an equally classy and chanceless second knock of 97 - only denied the opportunity for back-to-back hundreds when the hosts declared overnight as they pushed for victory over Yorkshire.
Clarke's innings showed poise against a dangerous attack, including an exquisitely-timed cover drive to bring up his half-century in the first innings. Run after run was also eased through the off-side in his second outing.
Making just two runs in both innings in his second match against Somerset - with Notts falling to a heavy defeat inside three days - took the shine of his excellent start at the club but Clarke's star is burning bright.
Only England skipper Root has more runs than Hampshire's Sam Northeast in Division One, with the batsman cruelly denied a second successive century at the start of the season when he was caught behind off Duanne Olivier when on 99 at the Ageas Bowl last week.
With spots available in England's top order, James Vince was touted as a possible option, but Northeast is the batsman in Hampshire's ranks making waves, having made 268 runs at an average of 89.33 - his county captain, Vince, scoring just 56 runs in three innings in contrast.
However, Northeast bats at No 4 - and that is not a position where England have an issue.
Moving one place up to No 3 may be less of a shock to the system for the Kent-born batsman and a necessary risk to take if he is to make it into the England side.
Malan's winter was spent playing T20 franchise cricket in the Bangladesh Premier League and Pakistan Super League but a Test recall is on the Middlesex man's mind.
Since Malan lost his place in the team to Ollie Pope following the first Test against India at Edgbaston last August, Root has reclaimed No 4, so movement higher up the order would be required.
But the 31-year-old produced a sublime match-saving innings against Northamptonshire in the opening round of the Championship in Division Two, hitting an exquisite unbeaten 160.
Although Middlesex fell to a heavy defeat against Lancashire at Lord's this week, Malan made a fine half-century before the hosts suffered a match-defining collapse.
National selector Smith was keeping an eye from the pavilion at the Home of Cricket and Malan's patience in testing conditions - on the ground where England will face Australia in the second Ashes Test - will not have gone unnoticed.
Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns
England's opening pair in their last Test of the winter against the Windies, Burns and Jennings, will not be certain of the places when selection decisions for the Ashes come up in early July.
Jennings had been dropped for the second Test in the Windies, only to be recalled when England opted to make a change in the batting make-up, with Joe Denly moving down from opener to No 3 and Jonny Bairstow from No 3 to No 7 as wicketkeeper Ben Foakes was dropped.
In contrast to his Lancashire team-mate Hameed, Jennings' four days at Lord's were not as successful - though he did hit a pleasing 52 in an opening partnership of 123 in the first innings.
With only 39 needed for victory in Lancashire's second innings, the 26-year-old holed out off Tim Murtagh for eight, which would have likely been a cause for frustration.
Across London at The Oval, Surrey opener Burns made a fine start to his season, with his innings of 98 including 13 fours and if he can continue to tread the same path over the next couple of months, he is the more likely man to retain his place at the top of the order.
Finally, as many would have expected, Root - whose batting prowess will surely be the rock England build around during the Ashes - tops the batting charts in Division One, overcoming a blow to the head as well.
England team-mate Stuart Broad rapped Root on the helmet during the Championship opener between Yorkshire and Notts - but the latter replied in the best way possible, scoring an unbeaten 130 to help his side secure a draw.
Ahead of a huge summer for Root, early season runs, 297 in total, in blistering wind would have warmed him, and England fans, up plenty.