03 April 2023

5 players to watch ahead of the 2023 County Championship season

03 April 2023

The LV= County Championship is back this week, with players up and down the country ready to resume for the 2023 campaign.

Here, the PA news agency looks at five up-and-coming players who could make a could make a splash in this year’s first-class competition.

Rehan Ahmed (Leicestershire)

The 18-year-old leg-spinning all-rounder already has a place in the history books, having become England’s youngest debutant in all three formats over a remarkable winter. His immediate Test prospects may be limited with Jack Leach inked in as first choice for the Ashes but Ahmed, who has just three championship appearances on his CV, is now looking forward to a first full season of county cricket. The Foxes are committed to giving their rising star a platform to shine, trusting his promise with the bat and allowing the more experienced Callum Parkinson to guide him in a rare case of county spin twins. Be excited.

Sam Cook (Essex)

One of the most reliable seam bowlers on the domestic circuit, Cook can surely count himself unlucky not to have laid hands on an England cap in the last 18 months. Relentless with the red ball and enterprising with the white one, be it the Vitality Blast or as part of Trent Rockets’ victorious Hundred team, he continues to ask the questions batter hate. At 25, his peak years as a swing bowler should still be ahead of him.

Jamie Smith (Surrey)

A title winner at the Kia Oval in 2022 and widely touted as a player whose proactive, free-flowing style is perfectly in tune with the current England set-up. Smith will keep wicket when Ben Foakes is on international duty but is already worthy of his place as a pure batting talent. He caused a stir when he lashed a record-breaking 71-ball century for England Lions in February and will be eager to show that is just the start. Only the best break through for the long haul at Surrey and the 22-year-old is well on the way.

Tom Haines (Sussex)

Already an established county captain at the age of just 24, the left-hander is increasingly seen as a player who could go to the next level. He signed off the 2022 campaign with a pair of centuries in the final game of the season, making 107 not out and 177 against Glamorgan, and followed his first call-up to the England Lions side with another hundred in the unofficial Test against Sri Lanka A. He topped 1,000 runs in 2021, went close last term and will be pushing for another bumper year at Hove.

Michael Jones (Durham)

Alex Lees’ dropping by England automatically strengthens Durham’s hand at the top of the order, but they are just as excited about his opening partner up at Chester-le-Street. Scotland international Jones is highly rated by new head coach Ryan Campbell and hopes are high that he will become a prolific performer in Division Two, setting the tempo for the county’s new aggressive style.

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