County Cricket 2011: 11 One’s To Watch

1) Toby Roland Jones – Middlesex

Few players made a greater impression in a shorter time than Toby Roland-Jones who took 38 wickets at an average of a shade under 20 including 5 wickets in 26 balls against County rivals Surrey. While Tim Murtagh and Steven Finn may get the headlines for Middlesex, it could be the 23-year old fast medium bowler who could be the real story at Lords this summer.

2) Joe Root – Yorkshire

With Jacques Rudolph gone, Yorkshire have a void to fill. Where as some would look overseas it is a credit to Martyn Moxon and his staff that they have such faith in their young talent that promising batsmen Joe Root is reckoned to be the man to step up. Developed through the same club as Michael Vaughan and with a fine record for England’s U-19s, his pedigree is beyond doubt.

3) Scott Borthwick – Durham

While Ben Stokes deserves plenty of praise for his potential, the young leg spinner could well be the one who catches the eye this year. Bowls with decent economy for a leggie while maintaining a real wicket-taking threat. While Durham’s spin resources have hardly been their strength during the years of dominance, Borthwick promises to be the answer to that.

4) Chesney Hughes – Derbyshire

Usman Khawaja and Martin Guptill may be the eye-catching young names of the Derbyshire batting line-up but it could be young Chesney Hughes who will be the foundation which their potential success is built upon. A powerfully built left-hander likened to Matthew Hayden by former opening partner Chris Rogers he will be keen to build on a fine opening season.

5) Chris Wood – Hampshire

Danny Briggs is the young star, James Vince perhaps the most crucial to his team in the middle order but Chris Wood is the one to watch. A left-arm seamer with good control, a decent record in one day cricket last season. In a land hardly flush with left-arm seam bowlers, Wood at 20 is a real dark horse for the T20 champions.

6) Shiv Thakor – Leicestershire

These are boom times for the Leicestershire academy. Having struck gold first with Stuart Broad, then latterly with James Taylor, Nathan Buck and Josh Cobb, now they have unearthed another potential gem in Shiv Thakor. A 17 year old who has scored heavily for the Academy teams since he racked up the youngest ever century for their under 9 side, if his progress continues he could be a potential star of the future.

7) Chris Jordan – Surrey

Touted as the next big thing after making initial waves on his first appearances for his county, it’s fair to say time has not been kind on the young Caribbean all-rounder as he has suffered badly with multiple injuries. Now back on the comeback trail after a year out, his fast bowling and more than handy batting could be a real boost for a Surrey team looking at promotion.

8) Joss Buttler – Somerset

With Craig Kieswetter off starring in the World T20’s last summer it was reckoned that Somerset would struggle, though given the impression that Joss Buttler made last season few would have wondered why. A big hitter, wonderful fielder and producer of big scores almost on demand, if he can avoid the pitfalls of second season syndrome then surely he will follow his team-mate Kieswetter into full England honours.

9) Moin Ashraf – Yorkshire

Yorkshire’s young attack caused quite a stir last season with Hannon-Dalby and Patterson more than filling the void left by Bresnan and Shahzad’s England exploits, Moin Ashraf’s late arrival almost stole the show. Nine wickets in two County matches at 11.79 including a five-for against Kent marked this 19-year old quick bowler out as something really special.

10) Andy Carter – Nottinghamshire

With Ryan Sidebottom gone and Stuart Broad likely to be pre-occupied this summer, a potential opening has emerged in the Champion’s seam bowling attack. Developing Andrew Carter, much in the Notts mould as a strong and dependable fast medium bowler, could fill that void. Made quite an impression while on loan at Essex last year and with plenty of room to develop he could force his way into the starting line-up later his year.

11) Jaik Mickleburgh – Essex

Essex is fast emerging as the breeding ground for young England batsmen with Ravi Bopara and Alistair Cook still playing regularly and Graham Gooch on the coaching staff and in young Jaik Mickleburgh their conveyor belt shows no signs of slowing down. Technically sound both in his shot selection and also mentally attuned for four-day cricket, his innings of 174 against champions Durham was one of the innings of last season and impressed plenty of on-lookers including some influential one’s too.

One to Watch: The one and only Chesney Hughes

The one and only: Chesney Hughes

With a name that’s a headline writers dream, Chesney Hughes has slowly been carving out a fine reputation for himself in domestic cricket, both at home in the West Indies and in England with Derbyshire.

The name may sound like ‘The One and Only’ singer Chesney Hawkes, but Hughes is definitely doing his bit to make his name stand out in its own right.

Born in Anguilla, one of the Northern, he quickly caught the eye-turning out for the Island at 15 and the West Indies u19 team at 16, but it was in the distinctly unexotic location of Fleetwood in Lancashire where he was spotted by former Hampshire bowler Cardigan Connor.

It was Connor who tipped off John Morris, director of cricket at Derbyshire, to him and after a successful trial he was snapped up, and he quickly repaid the faith shown in him by taking to County Cricket like a duck to water.

His debut was memorable, faring better than his more experienced team-mates to score 41 against a strong Middlesex attack including internationals Iain O’Brien and Steven Finn. 15 days later, he achieved a more memorable feat, scoring his maiden first class century against Gloucestershire, in only his fifth first class innings.

By the end of the summer, he added a 156 scored against Northamptonshire to his list of centuries, and finished his debut season with 784 Championship runs at an average of 41, and 422 Limited Overs runs at an average of 35.

Now playing for the Leeward Islands this Winter, he has continued to thrive-finishing in the top 10 run scorers in the WICB 50 Over tournament-which is quite a turnaround from last season where he was omitted from their first class player list.

His strengths are obvious just to look at him. He is well built, and strikes the ball with great power but also terrific timing, plus being left-handed further benefits him against right-armed bowlers. Furthermore, his skill as a part-time finger spinner has led some to consider him as a potential all-rounder in the future.

The most impressive asset of all is his maturity, at just 19 he has a calm head, and a knack for thriving in crunch situations. Two of his most important innings show this; firstly for Derbyshire he struck 96* in a second innings total of 236 against Gloucestershire on a questionable pitch, which proved far too much for the home team who were bowled out for just 70 in reply.

Then this winter for the Leeward Islands, he struck a steady 81 in the semi-final of the WICB one day tournament in their total of 213, which was 4 runs more than the Windward Islands could manage in reply. For a young player, still learning the game, it is a promising sign and an indicator of a sound temperament.

West Indies or England?

The one question which hangs over his head is about who he could represent at international level in the future. As an Anguillan, he holds a British passport, and hence could conceivably qualify for England, though his heart is said to be set on representing the West Indies in the future.

But wherever his future lies, be it with England or the West Indies, it appears that Chesney Hughes can achieve big things in the years to come.

What they say:

“He is the best 19-year-old I’ve seen for a long time. I cannot remember anyone in my age group – and that included players like Neil Fairbrother, James Whitaker, Matthew Maynard and Rob Bailey – being any better than he is.” John Morris, head of Cricket at Derbyshire.

“Chesney is someone whose progress I will be following with interest. He is a cricketer that you guys in England should be getting very excited about and who England should certainly be trying to get on board now.

“He’s only 19, but he’s built like Matthew Hayden, and he has that same imposing figure at the crease. And some of the innings he’s played this year, including the 90-odd not out he made at Bristol, have been exceptional.” Former Derbyshire opening partner Chris Rogers.