The stars so far
There are some clear outliers in terms of performances (so far) in the domestic scene. The best County Championship players in the 2021 season have usurped their counterparts significantly and as a result turned heads elsewhere. The England selection committee will likely have their eye on these players, with a big summer of Test cricket coming up, followed by a trip Down Under.
Who are these outliers and should they be considered for England selection?
Been there, done that
Let’s start with the obvious, but tried and tested options. Adam Lyth got himself started in scintillating form, reeling off two centuries and just one score below 50 in six innings. He has been one of the best County Championship players in 2021. Lyth has always been a dangerous opening batsman in the county game when on top form and he certainly is in such form right now. His last stint in Test cricket did not go to plan, with a century in his second game against New Zealand followed by a highest score of 37 in the ensuing Ashes series.
Hampshire pair Liam Dawson and James Vince have started the season in fine fashion with big centuries and a half century each to open up the season. When Vince is in full flow it must be difficult to imagine him having anything other than a successful international career. Alas. It is however tempting to imagine a glorious recall for this winter’s away Ashes series but, it is unlikely.
Dawson on the other hand could be bizarrely more useful to England cricket in a busy year. The ultimate utility player, Dawson has never batted higher than number 8 in a stacked English batting lineup but could play higher. England probably missed his skillset in India as Moeen Ali was unavailable for much of the tour and Dom Bess slightly erred. His tight bowling and lower order runs would have been vital in the subcontinent.
Too much to ignore?
Now how about the could-be’s? There have been several players putting their hands up for a number of years, missing out on places, but this congested year could lead to more opportunities. The stand up performer without a test cap has been Ollie Robinson (the bowler not the keeper).
The Sussex seamer averages 16 for the last four years. Astonishing. His height and nagging length could prove lethal on English pitches this summer but also useful down under if needed. Robinson has also started the season in fine form with the bat, averaging 33 with two fifties.
Another player who has been banging on the door for a few seasons now is Gloucestershire’s James Bracey. With a century and three further fifties under his belt this season, Bracey is pressing his case even further should England dispense with one of their regular top 3. An assured, patient and classy batter, it seems a matter of when rather than if, Bracey receives that call.
Did you know that you could stream the County Championship live online?
It will have warmed a great many hearts to see Haseeb Hameed score twin centuries for Notts to secure a draw last week. The former Lancashire man has had so many chapters to his career it is easy to forget he is only 24 years old. A thoroughly successful debut in Test whites in 2016 was brought to an end by an unfortunate injury and his county form never really recovered.
Hameed relocated to Trent Bridge and there are signs of some sort of recovery there as he looks to establish himself in the thoughts of the England selectors again.
Matt Critchley is amongst the best players that County Championship fans and England selectors have had their eyes on for a while and 2021 could finally be his year. The leg spinning middle order batter however, has never really produced the numbers that his obvious talent would suggest after a debut century back in 2016. This season however, that talent has born statistical fruit as he is the second highest run scorer so far (482).
Oh, and there’s the leg-spin. Critchley has 14 wickets at a sub 30 average to add to his pile of runs. Obviously it is easy to get a little excited at the thought of not just an all-rounder of note, but a leg-spinning one, but Critchley is showing signs of being the real deal.
Lancs spin to win
Another leg-spinner was grabbing the headlines for Lancashire against Kent as he bowled more than 50 overs, picking up a match-winning 7-fer. Matt Parkinson must have been wondering what he had to do to get a red ball fixture recently but Lancashire’s new found faith has paid off, big time.
The young leggie has 16 wickets at an average of 19 so far this year. This takes his first class tally to 77 at 23, with an economy under 3 RPO, pretty astonishing stuff so far for an English leg spinner.
It looks like England are in good hands for the future. The “kids” are alright!
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