Vaughan handed early chance to impress
Michael Vaughan has been given a timely opportunity to impress the selectors ahead of this summer's Ashes, after being picked for MCC against the Champion County, Durham, in the traditional curtain-raiser to the English season, at Lord's on April 9.
Vaughan, who has scored six Test centuries for England at Lord's, was omitted from England's winter tours after resigning the captaincy at Edgbaston last summer. He is back in the frame for the problematic No. 3 position, however, following the failure of his successors in the role, Ian Bell and Owais Shah, to seize their opportunities in India and West Indies.
Bell has also been named in the MCC team, one of six Test players in a strong line-up. He has been on the sidelines of the England squad since losing his place to Shah following England's ignominious 51 all out in Jamaica two months ago. Another candidate for the England top-order is the Kent and England Lions captain, Robert Key, who hasn't played Test cricket since January 2005, but is regularly mentioned in dispatches. He will captain the MCC team.
Key's Lions squad, which has just returned from their tour of New Zealand, also included Sajid Mahmood and Stephen Moore, who will line up alongside him at Lord's. Essex's James Foster will keep wicket, and will reacquaint himself with his MCC team-mate from 2008, Yorkshire's legspinner Adil Rashid.
The team was picked in conjunction with the ECB and as well as including the experience of Vaughan, Bell and Key, it features exciting young talent such as England Under 19's Chris Woakes and Steven Finn, and Durham UCCE's Tom Westley. Kabir Ali, who enjoyed a successful 2008 season, taking 59 first class wickets at an average of 18.74, completes the line-up.
"This year's Champion County fixture has all the ingredients to be a classic," said John Stephenson, MCC Assistant Secretary. "MCC is delighted to have so many top players turning out against a Durham side that will also be full of internationals.
"It will be an excellent opportunity for the young players to show what they can do alongside established international cricketers. Graeme Fowler, who coaches at Durham UCCE, has been raving about Tom Westley, and I look forward to him scoring runs against a team captained by his predecessor at Durham UCCE, Will Smith."
England's National Selector Geoff Miller said: "All the players in the MCC team will be hungry to prove a point to the selectors, so we are confident we will see four days of tough, hard-fought cricket. Every English cricketer wants to be involved with the national set-up this summer because the world's eyes will be on England for both the Ashes Series and the ICC World Twenty20."
"It's a great opportunity not just for players on the edge of the Test side to make a claim for a place, but also for the youngsters to prove the strength of Under-19 and University cricket in this country."
MCC 1 Robert Key, 2 Stephen Moore, 3 Michael Vaughan, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Adil Rashid, 6 Chris Woakes, 7 James Foster, 8 Tom Westley, 9 Sajid Mahmood, 10 Steven Finn, 11 Kabir Ali.