Mullaney, Northeast to captain in North-South Series
Only three of the eight players who won selection for the ECB's North v South Series via the PCA MVP ranking system will take part in this year's outing to Barbados in March. The pre-season competition, first played in 2017, was originally conceived as a way to bring added relevance to the Royal London Cup and aid England selection ahead of the 2019 World Cup.
Of the four South-qualified players, only Daniel Bell-Drummond will take up his place; Alastair Cook and James Vince will be unavailable, with England's Test team touring New Zealand, while Ravi Bopara has a contract to play in the Pakistan Super League.
From the North, Keaton Jennings and Sam Hain will be involved for the second year running. Gary Ballance, another automatic selection via the PCA rankings, will be away on tour to South Africa ahead of his second season as Yorkshire captain, while Shiv Thakor has been deemed ineligible after his recent criminal conviction, which lead to him being sacked by Derbyshire.
Ben Duckett, who fell foul of the ECB's disciplinary procedures on the Lions' tour of Australia, wins a chance to make amends with the North, alongside three other players who featured in 2017: Joe Clarke, Paul Coughlin and Saqib Mahmood. From the South squad who won the inaugural series 3-0, Northeast, Bell-Drummond and Liam Dawson return.
The North will be coached by Paul Collingwood, with assistance from Nottinghamshire's Paul Franks; while Mark Ramprakash will take charge of the South, backed up by Andy Flower. The squads were chosen by national selector, James Whitaker, after discussions with Collingwood and Ramprakash, as well as England selectors Angus Fraser and Mick Newell.
"We believe these are two exciting squads which again underline the value of this North-South Series as an opportunity for us to see some strong contenders for white-ball cricket playing at a higher level of competition and intensity," Whitaker said.
"The unavailability of several of the players who had earned automatic invitations means the squads are tilted more towards youth and potential this year. The North squad has six players aged 21 or under, and the South squad includes four 20-year-olds plus Sam Curran, who is still only 19.
"Some of the players we have selected have very limited List A experience with their counties. But in those cases their potential has already been identified with selection on the ECB's International Pathway. For example Delray Rawlins is currently in Sydney on an overseas placement, and we have included three fast bowlers currently training with the Pace Programme - Zak Chappell in the North squad, and Paul Walter and Tom Helm with the South.
"But it is also a good opportunity for more experienced players who have impressed in the county game, such as Steven Mullaney, Brett D'Oliveira, John Simpson and Sam Northeast, to show the selectors and England coaches what they can do at a higher level."
The North-South Series will take place at Kensington Oval, with fixtures on March 18, 21 and 23. A number of players will also be involved in the Lions tour of the West Indies that precedes it, while Essex will subsequently play MCC in the Champion County match at the ground - moving to the Caribbean after several years in the UAE - on March 27-30.
North Squad: Steven Mullaney (Notts, capt), Sam Hain (Warwickshire), Ben Duckett (Northamptonshire), Joe Clarke (Worcestershire), Keaton Jennings (Lancashire), Brett D'Oliveira (Worcestershire), Alex Davies (Lancashire, wk), Paul Coughlin (Notts), Matt Fisher (Yorkshire), Saqib Mahmood (Lancashire), Richard Gleeson (Northamptonshire), Zak Chappell (Leicestershire), Matt Parkinson (Lancashire)
South Squad Sam Northeast (Kent, capt), Daniel Bell-Drummond (Kent), Nick Gubbins (Middlesex), Dan Lawrence (Essex), Delray Rawlins (Sussex), Liam Dawson (Hampshire), John Simpson (Middlesex, wk), Sam Curran (Surrey), Paul Walter (Essex), Dom Bess (Somerset), Tom Helm (Middlesex), Jamie Porter (Essex), George Garton (Sussex)