England news December 18, 2013

Five England players to watch

George Dobell and David Hopps
After the horrors of the Ashes series, the performances of England's up-and-coming players will come under fresh scrutiny. Here are five players who will be yearning to become the stars of tomorrow

After the horrors of the Ashes series, with England conceding the urn in only 14 days' cricket, the performances of England's up-and-coming players will come under fresh scrutiny, beginning with the England Lions tour to Sri Lanka and next summer's LV= County Championship.

ESPNcricinfo will be there in force. In the meantime, here are five uncapped Test players with the potential to forge an England career in the years ahead:

Moeen Ali:

Age: 26 Club: Worcestershire Record: 6388 first-class runs at an average of 37.79; 125 first-class wickets at an average of 42.32.
An elegant batsman and pleasing off-spinner, Moeen Ali showed he had added substance to his style by winning the PCA's most valuable player award for the 2013 season and scoring more Championship runs (1375) than anyone else, albeit in Division Two. Whether he can be considered any more than a second spinner is debatable - that first-class bowling average remains stubbornly high - but his friend Saeed Ajmal has taught him how to bowl the 'doorsa' legally - Moeen is the only England player to have this information - and, as he bowls with more pace, his bowling should increase in potency. The fact that Joe Root can already be considered a respectable second spinner may count against Moeen but he does have the class to break into the side as a specialist batsman.


Tymal Mills:

Age: 21 Club: Essex Record: 102 first-class runs at an average of 7.84; 32 first-class wickets at an average of 35.71.
At first glance, the suggestion that Tymal Mills might be an England player of the near future is absurd: he claimed only six Championship wickets in 2013 and is far from an automatic selection in Essex's Division Two side. But Mills, a strong, slingy left-arm seamer not a million miles from Mitchell Johnson style, is blessed with unusual pace and, after roughing up the England players in a warm-up match ahead of the Ashes in England and again in the nets ahead of this series, may well find himself fast-tracked. His Essex colleague, 19-year-old Reece Topley, is also a left-arm seamer of substantial promise and may go on to have the better career, but it is Mills' pace that places him in a special category. Both men emerged through an Essex system that has an outstanding record for producing young players, but a less impressive one of seeing them to develop to their full potential.


Sam Robson:

Age: 24 Club: Middlesex Record: 3851 first-class runs at an average of 39.70; 0 first-class wickets.
An opening batsman who bears a striking resemblance to Mike Atherton, Sam Robson enjoyed a fine season in the county game and then made centuries in successive matches for the England Performance Programme on their tour of Australia recently. Adept at concentrating for long period and excellent at leaving deliveries outside off stump, Robson was hailed by his Middlesex captain, Chris Rogers, as a man who had already batted through a day's play more often than him. He must be considered a viable long-term bet as Alastair Cook's opening partner. Australian-born and a representative of their U19 side, Robson utilised his British passport courtesy of his Nottingham-born mother - his father and brother also have experience in the county game - to pursue a career in England. Such was Australia's concern at losing him, they changed their own rules so that dual passport players could be eligible to play in more than one country at a time.


Jos Buttler

Age: 23 Club: Lancashire Record: 2031 first-class runs at an average of 31.73; 0 first-class wickets.
At the start of his first-class career, Jos Buttler was made much in the mould of a limited-overs specialist. His batting interventions could be explosive and innovative and, as he unveiled his ramp shot for the first time, he promised to bring new dash to England's T20 side. But last summer something clicked. Buttler's Championship innings suddenly became more considered, his mind more attuned to the need to build longer innings, and the result of that was 815 runs at 36.28 and a recognition of a more rounded game. Some progress then. England have taken notice. If there is a reluctance to give Jonny Bairstow the gloves, it is explained in part by their conviction that Buttler has the potential to become England's wicketkeeper in all three forms of the game. His determination to advance his keeping, so far rudimentary, was seen in his determination to keep wicket in the Championship, leading him to leave Somerset, where Craig Kieswetter had the gloves in four-day cricket, for Lancashire at the end of the season.


Jamie Overton:

Age: 19 Club: Somerset Record: 41 first-class wickets at 35.36.
There are times when life running a county cricket club can be so frustrating. Years are spent investing in a player of high promise and, the moment he is unveiled, England send down a selector, or member of the coaching staff, to take a look, and in no time at all, he is missing Championship cricket so he can hang around the England dressing room, get to know people, and be educated in strength and conditioning programmes and a lot more besides. That has never been more apparent than in the case of Jamie Overton last season. England think highly of this strapping Devonian, not yet 20, who already touches 90mph, hits the pitch in aggressive fashion and bowls a decent bouncer. Overton did not bowl a single delivery after he was called up for the one-day series against Australia, but as Somerset struggled to avoid relegation, England's intentions to take early ownership of him could hardly have been made more apparent.