Joe Michael Clarke
May 26, 1996, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Right hand Bat
Top order Batter
Llanfyllin High School
Joe Clarke became the first teenager to play for England Lions since Joe Root when he was called up for a series against Pakistan in the UAE in 2015 but his promising career stalled in 2019 after his involvement in the trial of Alex Hepburn, his former Worcestershire team-mate, who was found guilty of rape and jailed for five years.
Clarke - along with another ex-Worcestershire team-mate, Tom Kohler-Cadmore - was not charged with a criminal offence, nor was there a suggestion of criminal wrongdoing, but his involvement in a WhatsApp group chat which a judge described as a "pathetic sexist game to collect as many sexual encounters as possible" earned him a backdated suspension and a fine from the ECB for bringing the game into disrepute.
After scores of 112 and 97 not out on his Nottinghamshire debut at the start of 2019, Clarke's form collapsed after the trial concluded and only recovered in the final week of the season when he hit his second Notts hundred. By that stage, the club had already been relegated and he was on England's blacklist.
His form returned over the next two years, particularly in limited-overs cricket. He formed a destructive opening partnership with Alex Hales for Notts and started to earn opportunities on the franchise circuit, impressing for Melbourne Stars in 2021-22. After three years without contact from the ECB, he was named a reserve for England's Test tour to the Caribbean in early 2022, the first sign that his career was back on track after a tumultuous period.
Clarke, a stylish middle-order strokemaker, had made 12 Championship hundreds for Worcestershire by 22, at an average a fraction below 40. Five Championship hundreds in his first full Worcestershire season in 2016 deepened the good impression he had made the previous summer and won him a third Lions call-up at the tender age of 20. He finished the season with a flourish with a career-best 194 against Derbyshire, so neatly producing his highest scores in the first and last games of the season, and expressed the ambition to follow new caps such as Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett into the England side.
Although he proved himself a more than capable wicketkeeper at England U-19 level, and insisted at the end of the season that he remained committed to the role, the presence of Ben Cox at Worcestershire and the sense that the keeper-batter role at England level had ample cover, plus his own burgeoning talents with the bat, led him to develop as a specialist batter. Steve Rhodes, Worcestershire's director of cricket, credited him with a similar batting nous, and ability to work things out, as Joe Root and in English cricket in 2016 there was no higher praise than that.
Having started his cricket life in Shropshire, Clarke joined the Worcestershire academy where he soon moved into the England Under-19 set-up. He took part in the 2014 U-19 World Cup and in the 2014-15 winter played club cricket for South Perth then on his return was prolific for Worcestershire 2nd XI, which earned him a first-team chance. He scored a maiden List A hundred - an unbeaten 131 - against Gloucestershire and then his maiden first-class hundred against Sussex in the space of a month, both while still a teenager.
Batting & Fielding