County Cricket 2017 – Ones to Watch, No. 20-16

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Traditionally, such lists are compiled entirely of young, upcoming talent with no one on the list above 21-years-old. Although many ‘ones to watch’ on this list are indeed young players, others are well established on the county scene or are on the fringes of the England team. These players have a point to prove ahead of the 2017 season. Here are the first five ‘Ones to Watch’:

20) Tom Westley:

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The 27-year-old’s England ambitions have been brushed off by some due to the fact that he had been playing in Division Two. Now, after gaining promotion comfortably in 2016 with Essex, Westley needs another stellar 2017 to be taken seriously as a potential international player.

The Essex man’s biggest challenge will be the rise in standard that comes with promotion. 1,217 runs at an average of 52.91 with a high score of 254 – Westley has set himself high standards following last season. Furthermore, the Essex number three recorded scores of 97 and 68 for the Lions in the recent four-day series against Sri Lanka A.

Although Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings have had positive starts to their respective Test careers, they have not yet cemented their places in the top order. Tom Westley will be aiming to be the next man into England’s top three should Hameed or Jennings fail.

19) Steven Finn:

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Arguably, no bowler in the country has a bigger point to prove than Steven Finn. Finn bowled some excellent spells full of pace and aggression during England’s tour of South Africa a little over a year ago. Again, his form was on the rise against Pakistan last summer, only lacking in a bit of luck.

Now that Chris Woakes and Jake Ball have moved above Finn in the pecking order, the Middlesex man will have to take wickets consistently for the defending champions in order to regain the selectors’ attention. Finn has made a positive start to 2017 by moving past 100 ODI wickets during the recent ODI series in the Caribbean (third fastest to do so for England) – but the fast bowler will have to continue the trend if he is to retain his place in England’s Test side once more.

Finn would dearly love to be a part of England’s Champions Trophy campaign in the coming months. However, if he is surplus to requirements, he will no doubt be causing havoc for county batsmen across the country.

18) Craig Overton:

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It is hard to believe that the Overton twins are only 22 years old. Craig, an essential part of the Somerset team that went so close to winning their first title last season, will no doubt gain international recognition in time. However, with the Curran brothers ahead of them in the selector’s eyes, Craig will look to back up his good work for the Lions this season.

A powerful lower-order batsman to complement his 90mph rockets, Craig Overton is box office. With so many talented all-rounders on the county scene, the Somerset man will have to produce with both bat and ball to really gain the selectors’ attention.

Could being an integral part of a Championship-winning team be enough to gain him a spot on the plane to Australia later in the year?

17) Dominic Bess:

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After bursting onto the scene at the back end of last season, everyone will keep one eye on Dom Bess this season. At just 19 years old, Bess already has a big future ahead of him. One downside to his youth and inexperience is that he will most likely have to wait until late summer again to be a part of the first team as Jack Leach is the premier spin bowler at Taunton. Nevertheless, he took advantage of the spin-friendly pitches at Taunton late last summer in taking 13 wickets from just three matches – including an impressive 6-28.

After another disastrous winter in the subcontinent for England, attention will immediately turn to the breeding of spin bowlers this season, as it has done in the past. The new toss-regulations implemented ahead of last season were mostly well received. And Bess’ selection for Somerset could be seen as a success of the new regulations. With England’s next visit to the subcontinent not until October 2018, Bess could be an easy selection when the time comes.

16) Aaron Beard:

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Following the retirements of Graham Napier and David Masters, Aaron Beard is another to keep a close eye on. Like Bess, he may not feature in the first half of the season for his county. But the 19-year-old is sure to pile the pressure on the other Essex seamers.

During a tour match early last summer, Beard ripped through Sri Lanka’s top order with figures of 4-62. Displaying a strong action, it surely won’t be long before the youngster is a regular on the county scene. Furthermore, Essex have recruited well this year in Neil Wagner and Mohammed Amir. Beard will no doubt learn a great deal from the premier international pacemen.

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