Test teams of the future: Ollie Pope and Saqib Mahmood lead England's hopes

Ashish Peter 30/07/2018
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Ollie Pope (l) and Saqib Mahmood (r).

The upcoming five-Test series between England and India promises to be a cliffhanger with quality players strewn on both sides.

While the Virat Kohlis and Joe Roots get ready to battle it out, there is a host of talent coming through the youth ranks of both countries.

Here, we take a look at the young English players aged 21 and below who could be soon knocking on the doors of the senior team.

OLLIE POPE

AGE: 20

Ollie Pope burst on to the scene as a wicketkeeper-batsman, but it is his batting which is winning him many admirers in the English county circuit. The right-handed batsman had had a phenomenal breakout year with Surrey in 2017, when he impressed across all three formats. While his exploits as a T20 batsman won him many plaudits, he showed that he has the gumption for five-day cricket too with a superb ton against Hampshire in only his third county championship match. He is one of, if not the brightest young talent England have on hand at the moment.

Ollie Pope is undergoing a meteoric rise.

Ollie Pope is undergoing a meteoric rise.

HASEEB HAMEED

AGE: 21

Haseeb Hameed is an enigma. The opening batsman was earmarked for greatness when he shone on his Test debut in tough conditions in India as a 19-year-old in November, 2016. His two innings of 31 and 82 on a pitch where spinners were causing mayhem was brilliance at its best. However, the Lancashire batsman has fallen way off the radar since then and has gone on to play only two more Tests. A poor run in county cricket means Hameed is no longer on the selectors’ radar but the youngster still has time on his hand to force his way back into the reckoning. A crucial year lies ahead of the right-hander.

HARRY BROOK

AGE: 19

Harry Brook looked head and shoulders above the rest of the English batsmen during the U19 World Cup held in New Zealand at the start of the year. The 19-year-old England U19 skipper is a technically-correct batsman with all the shots in his book. He proved his mettle for the Yorkshire Second XI in the 2017 season and has now been making appearances for the main team too. He registered a classy fifty in Yorkshire’s recent clash with a Lancashire side which included the likes of James Anderson.

Harry Brook is of the brightest English batting talents.

Harry Brook is one of the brightest English batting talents.

MAX HOLDEN

AGE: 20

A former England U19 skipper, Max Holden is another young English batsman who enjoyed a terrific 2017 in county cricket. The left-handed batsman scored a total of 629 runs in the county championship for Northamptonshire last year at an average of nearly 40. That impressive loan spell has seen the youngster recalled to Middlesex where he has now signed a long-term contract. A busy batsman who likes to graft for his runs, Holden seems tailor-made for Test cricket at the moment.

AARON THOMASON

AGE: 21

An all-rounder by ilk, Aaron Thomason is another of the young Englishmen worth keeping an eye on at the moment. The right-hander has come up through the ranks at Warwickshire and has also represented England at the U19 level. A technically sound batsman, Thomason is an adept medium-pace bowler. His showings with both bat and ball for Warwickshire’s second XI in 2017 were impressive and he could be stepping up to the main side fairly soon.

LIAM BANKS

AGE: 19

Another exciting English prospect coming up through the ranks at Warwickshire is Liam Banks. A batsman who is equally comfortable at opening the innings or in the middle-order, Banks can also bowl some handy part-time off spin. He was a part of England’s U19 squad in the World Cup this year and has already made his county championship debut with Warwickshire last year. This will be a big year for his development after some fine displays for the Warwickshire second XI last year.

Liam Banks can bat anywhere across the batting-order.

Liam Banks can bat anywhere across the batting-order.

SAQIB MAHMOOD

AGE: 21

Saqib Mahmood is one of the most promising young English pacers coming through at the moment. The Lancashire pacer was named as the England Development Programme cricketer of the year in 2015 and went on to represent the England U19 side as just a 17-year-old.  The 19 wickets he has taken so far in six first-class matches saw Mahmood being called up the England Lions squad during their shadow tour of the Ashes last year. With that trajectory, it won’t be a surprise to see the pacer knock on the doors of the senior team soon.

Mahmood has already been called up as cover for the senior squad.

Mahmood has already been called up as cover for the senior squad.

JOSH TONGUE

AGE: 20

How highly rated young Josh Tongue is can be gauged from the fact that he already has 20 first-class matches under his belt. The Worcestershire pacer had an outstanding first season in the county championship last year where he bagged a total of 47 wickets. He too, like Mahmood, was part of the England Lions squad which toured Australia last year. He is now an established member of the Worcestershire squad which is no mean feat for a 20-year-old youngster.

GEORGE GARTON

AGE: 21

George Garton might not have racked up impressive numbers just as yet, but that does not mean the pacer isn’t on the radar of the England selectors. The left-arm quick can bowl with impressive pace and has been a steady performer for Sussex’s second XI over the course of the last year. How high up he is in the pecking order was evident when Garton was called up as cover for the injury-ravaged England squad during their last Ashes tour.

DOMINIC BESS

AGE: 21

At 21 years of age, Dom Bess has already played two Tests for England. Although that might have more to do with England’s lack of quality spinners at the moment, Bess more than looked the part in his appearances. The off-spinner announced himself to the cricket world with figures of 6-21 against Warwickshire on his county championship debut for Somerset in 2016. He formed a successful partnership with Jack Leach in 2017 for Somerset and is no mug with the bat either as his century for the second XI last year showed.

Dom Bess has already played two Tests for England.

Dom Bess has already played two Tests for England.

HAMIDULLAH QADRI

AGE: 17

Hamidullah Qadri made headlines in 2017 when, as a 16-year-old, he became the youngest player to play first-class cricket for Derbyshire. He picked up a five-wicket haul with his off-spin in the second innings of his debut to lead Derbyshire to a win over Glamorgan. Born in Afghanistan, Qadri is one of the most talented young spinners coming though the county circuit along with Dom Bess. Expect him to have a big year with Derbyshire across all formats.

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Dale Steyn rues modern day bowlers' woes as he labels Australia's ball-tampering saga a 'cry for help'

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Steyn has spoken out against the imbalance between bat and ball.

South Africa pacer Dale Steyn has spoken out against the imbalance between bat and ball in the modern game. The fast-bowling great has even gone as far to call Australia’s attempt to tamper with the ball during their tour of South Africa this year as a ‘cry for help’.

The Proteas pacer recently equalled Shaun Pollock’s tally of 421 Test wickets to become his country’s all-time leading wicket-taker in the format and he believes that the game needs to take steps to aid the bowlers.

“It’s obviously not on (Australia’s ball-tampering attempt), but if you think about it, it’s almost like a cry for help. We need to do something,” Steyn told Reuters in an interview.

“There’s so much in favour of batsmen these days. Fields are small, two new balls, powerplays, bats have got bigger than they used to be, the list can go on. You bowl a ‘no ball’ and it’s a free hit. But I have never seen a rule change that favours the bowler.”

That reverse swing is a dying art has been touched upon by legends of the game such as Sachin Tendulkar and Waqar Younis in recent times and Steyn agrees with that sentiment.

Steyn believes that reverse swing is dying art.

Steyn believes that reverse swing is dying art.

“It’s a big plea and it would be a sad day to see (reverse swing) disappear. I grew up watching (Wasim) Akram, I grew up watching Waqar and all these geniuses run in and reverse swing the ball. And you just don’t see it today. What inspiration will other fast bowlers have if they don’t have anybody to inspire them to become fast bowlers? You might as well put a bowling machine there and everyone try and become a batter,” the 35-year-old said.

Like Tendulkar, Steyn believes that the two new-balls rule in ODIs needs to be abolished to restore the balance.

“They changed the rule and said we will bring two new balls into the game. I don’t want a new ball when I am bowling in the subcontinent. I want an old ball that can’t get hit out of the ground. I want a ball that when I bowl doesn’t have true bounce, so that the batsman can’t hit it. These are not rules that favour the bowler at all. They are, if anything, add to the batsman,” said the pacer.

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Cheteshwar Pujara's struggles, Joe Root's conversion woes and other key factors ahead of the Test battle between England and India

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Pujara has had a poor time with Yorkshire this year.

England take on India in a five-Test series starting on Wednesday at Edgbaston.

Here, Press Association takes a look at some of the key statistics.

43-25 – England’s all-time winning record against India, with 49 draws.

4-0 – England suffered a heavy defeat in their last series against India, on tour in 2016. They won 3-1 on India’s last visit to England.

10 – Test fifties for England captain Joe Root since he last went on to make a century. Since his career-best 254 against Pakistan in 2016, he has converted only three out of 23 half-centuries into three figures. However, he made back-to-back tons in the one-day series.

The centuries have been hard to come for the England skipper.

The centuries have been hard to come for the England skipper.

75 – England’s uncapped seamer Jamie Porter led the County Championship Division One wicket charts last season. He has 28 at an average of 26.82 so far this season.

0 – first-class matches played by recalled England spinner Adil Rashid this summer after renegotiating a white-ball only contract with Yorkshire.

13.40Virat Kohli‘s batting average on India’s last tour of England. His career Test average is 53.40.

Virat Kohli had a troubled series in England in 2014.

Virat Kohli had a troubled series in England in 2014.

9 – Test innings without a century for India’s Cheteshwar Pujara, with his top score in that time 50 from 179 balls against South Africa in January. He averaged only 14.33 for Yorkshire in this summer’s Championship, failing to pass 50 in 12 innings, but impressed in the Royal London One-Day Cup.

14 – wickets taken by Kuldeep Yadav across the one-day and Twenty20 legs of the current tour, at an average of 14.71, to earn Test selection.

303 – runs scored by India’s Karun Nair in his match-winning undefeated innings in the last Test between the two teams in December 2016 in Chennai. In six Tests to date, his next-highest score is 26.

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