Here in my first year as a cricket blogger I am going to pick five players from the county scene and tell you to watch out for them season. I am not going to look just at young players, but perhaps the older players who have not shone yet – or maybe even an old pro, who may have the season of a career. As my interest is generally in the domestic game, I am going to stick to that.
1) Rikki Clarke (Derbys) – having been essentially a fringe player at Surrey for a few years, Clarke finally looked to have pushed into the first XI last season, however, he ended up playing only 10 championship matches. Having finally accepted his medium pace bowling is never going to be a threat, he appears to be concentrating on his batting. However, an average of only 23 was not good enough to keep him at Surrey – and the revolution that is Derbyshire quickly snapped him up. I see a fruitful season ahead for him, named as captain and likely to have no issues over selection, this could be a big season for the perennial underachiever.
2) Steven Finn (Middx) – perhaps a predictable one this, but you just cannot ignore a 6’ 8” fast bowler! Having already played 5 first class matches and boasting a highly impressive bowling average of 20.50 (16 wickets) this could be a big season for the young Londoner. He probably won’t be in the first XI at the start of the season, but expect to see his name around, and he is my pick to emulate JAR Harris of Glamorgan as young player of the year.
3) Of all of the new signings this winter, one has hardly managed to bat any eyelids at all – but could indeed be one of the shrewdest acquisitions of them all. William Porterfield has finally made the step into county cricket and I would not be surprised to see him finish near the top of the batting averages come September. Boasting a highly impressive set of averages – ODI – 59.92 (how many England players can say that); first class – 47.13 – he certainly has pedigree. I really admire Gloucestershire for taking this gamble and it is one I fully expect to pay off – especially look out for him in the one day competitions.
4) James Tredwell (Kent) – I saw Tredwell in a T20 game at Notts last season and his economic 4 overs really impressed me. The off spinner, who can also bat more than a bit, took 36 wickets at 35 last season, and I can see this getting better as he gains more experience. Never mentioned in the same breath as the words ‘England’ and ‘No. 8’, Tredwell will keep plugging away this season – do not be surprised to see him top 50 wickets this season.
5) Finally, and predictably enough, I have to include a Worcestershire player, and I am going to go for Simon Jones. This is a really big year for ‘Jonah’. He has made the break from his home county, and perhaps the break will do him the world of good. He has wintered well and if he stays fit all season he will be pushing the 75 wicket mark on a relatively new, green track at New Road. That is a heck of an ‘if’ though and it is without doubt a risk from a county that is already in some serious financial problems after the floods of 2007. All of that said however, England play the first Ashes test of 2009 at Sophia Gardens. . . incentive if ever there was any. . .