Cricket: Young Gifted And Batting: Four Fighting To Make The England Grade

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The Independent Online
MATTHEW WOOD

YORKSHIRE

From a cricketing family - his father played for Emley, where his mother made the teas and sister Caroline kept score - the 21-year- old right-hand batsman from Huddersfield is a star pupil of the Yorkshire Academy, where he spent two years from the age of 17, during which time he represented England at Under-17 and Under-19 level. After making 81 on his first-class debut in 1997 it was last season that he came to prominence, hitting four centuries, including an unbeaten double-hundred against Warwickshire at Headingley, and topping 1,000 first-class runs in 29 innings at 46.95. Yet to recapture that form this season, with a highest score of just 53 in 17 first-class innings. "He has worked hard but is lacking a bit of confidence and needs a big score to settle him down," coach Martyn Moxon said. "I cannot say that poor pitches are to blame although they obviously do not help."

MARK WAGH

WARWICKSHIRE

If anyone doubted the credibility of university cricket, the 22- year-old Birmingham-born right-hand batsman offers evidence that it has not become entirely unproductive. Having emerged from King Edward's School with 12 GCSEs and four A- levels, Wagh won a place at Keble College, Oxford, from which he graduated last summer with a degree in psychology. In the meantime, he became a leading figure in the cricket XI, captaining the side in 1997, when he also made his county debut and totalled 1,156 first-class runs. The retirement of Andy Moles created a vacancy at the top of the order which Wagh has filled. He returned to the Parks as a Warwickshire player in May this year to post a career-best unbeaten 216 but has yet to pass 60 in the Championship. A confident stroke-maker who is still settling in to life as a county player and sometimes needs to curb his impetuosity.

DAVID NASH

MIDDLESEX

The 21-year-old from Chertsey was brought up in a cricketing environment - both his father and brother play - and has represented England at every age level from Under-14 and toured with England A to Sri Lanka and Kenya in 1997-98. A jaunty character and pugnacious right-hand batsman, he has been presented with an opportunity by the retirement of Keith Brown to develop as a wicketkeeper-batsman and could emerge as a rival to England's new gloveman Chris Read if he continues to move in the right direction. Made his maiden century against Somerset at Lord's last summer but is reckoned generally to have underachieved this season, passing 50 only twice with a top score of 71. Critics suggest that, in common with many young players, he is discovering that the game is not quite so simple as it may first have appeared, especially when he is faced with uncertain wickets.

GRAEME SWANN

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

Given that he is an accomplished off-spinner with approaching 50 first-class wickets, the 20-year-old from Northampton has double the chance of some of his contemporaries of forcing his way into the Test team. The younger of two brothers on the Wantage Road staff, he grew up watching his father Roy, captain of the Northants Board XI. Played for England at every age level and caught the eye when he took 8 for 18 against Pakistan in an Under-18 Test, the best figures of any bowler at that level. As a batsman last season he made 92 and a career-best 111 against Leicestershire and has demonstrated his prowess as a batsman again in the last few days, coming in at 30 for 5 to make 78 out of 223 against Middlesex at Lord's on Friday. "He is coming on well," coach Bob Carter said, "and just needs to start taking wickets on a regular basis to have a very good chance."

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