Cricket: England calling? Six hoping for an international future

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The Independent Online
Chris Adams

Derbyshire

Timing, in all respects, would appear to be a formidable weapon in the armoury of the batsman who is grizzly by name and, at the crease anyway, grizzly by nature. He began the season with a glorious Championship hundred at Canterbury, thus extending his splendid form of 1996 and reminding the selectors how foolish they were to overlook him for the winter tours. Still ignored this summer while they kept faith with those in possession, Adams has been comparatively quiet since. But, pertinently, he played beautifully for Derbyshire against the Australians - after a disgraceful incident in which he refused to walk after being given out - and this week has staked a claim with NatWest and Championship centuries. He is confident, full of shots and at 27 has served a long apprenticeship on green pitches. All he craves is a chance. "If I get it I won't let anybody down." Believe it.

Ashley Cowan

Essex

WITH his mischievous grin and his untamed ears, the 22-year-old Essex fast medium bowler could be Gary from Men Behaving Badly. This may not mark him out as automatic strike bowler material but he is tall, strong, willing, accurate and has Gary's obdurate streak. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of his bowling this season is his strike rate. He took a wicket every 61 balls last summer, this summer one every 45. Cowan, a diligent trainer as far as bowling is concerned, has learned the slow drip method of getting batsmen out by refusing to give them anything which plays to their strengths, but he is also capable of surprise. He is not yet the finished article (but then were Fred Trueman when he was picked at 21 or Jason Gillespie?) but there is something in his demeanour and his re- modelled, chest-on action which suggests he can make the huge leap upwards.

Ashley Giles

Warwickshire

SINCE being in the England one-day squad, this has been a summer of, to put it politely, consolidation for the huge Warwickshire left-arm spinner. Perhaps that was inevitable. He had made his way almost stealthily to prominent places in the averages in his first two seasons and while bowlers discover batsmen's weaknesses the ploy also works the other way round. Fewer than 30 Championship wickets tell their own story but this has not been a spinner's season and recent indications are rosy. Significantly, Giles, 24, has the support of those around him. They believe he has what it takes. He bats well, too. He is a sterling one-day player - his bowling at the death in the NatWest Trophy tie at Lord's the other day was a model of maturity, yielding a spell of 3 for 14 in four overs. Confidence may have suffered slightly but he is a genuinely exciting player of his kind.

Ben Hollioake

Surrey

AS flavours of the month go they do not come much tastier. He is 19 and has eagerly grabbed two opportunities on the bigger stage, both at Lord's. He scored 63 for England in the final one-day international and 98 in the Benson & Hedges Cup final for Surrey. He was also impressive in the England A v The Rest match at Edgbaston early in the summer where he demonstrated that his bowling, as they say, hits the pitch - he dismissed his brother Adam. Benjamin Caine Hollioake seems born to great deeds. But - is it not typically English to introduce that word? - it is probably too early for him in Test cricket. Not for nothing has he failed to take the County Championship by storm. His batting is delightfully uninhibited but his defences are fragile and he bowls too many indifferent balls to be a persistent threat. He will learn much in the next year and still be just 20. It would be wiser to pick him then.

Mark Ramprakash

Middlesex

THERE would not be much of an argument against the proposition that the Middlesex captain is the most gifted player of his generation. It is said that his temperament is suspect and it is true that he has registered too many ducks. But the memory also tells us that when he first got into the side against the then still fearsome West Indies in 1991 he made determined, courageous starts each time, getting into the 20s in seven of nine innings. The feeling persists that he has not truly been given the extended run by England that his enviable natural gifts of timing and strokeplay should merit. Called up to South Africa two winters ago it seemed odd to say the least that he should be plunged into the No 3 position. He has continued to dismantle county attacks, as six fifties and four hundreds show, and has made a promising start as Middlesex captain. His time has surely come again.

Robert Rollins

Essex

WHEN the great Alan Knott was first picked for England 30 years ago he was 21, had two full seasons behind him, averaged fewer than 20 with the bat and had just over 200 dismissals. Rollins, injured at the start of this summer, is 23, has three seasons but fewer matches behind him, averages above 20 and has almost 150 dismissals, including a handsome proportion of stumpings. More importantly, he has Knott's clean, swift hands and also appears to share his ability to improvise. There is an impish quality about him which can inspire team-mates and his batting, while not of top-order quality, is fearless. He will take catches to lift others; he may score runs when they are most needed in a manner which can get up the opposition's pipe. No one would suggest he is the new Knott but he can raise the side's stock and make redundant all nonsense about the need to be a top-six batsman.

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