The future stars of the England cricket team

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The Independent Online

Selecting players with an eye on the future rather than winning in the present is a devilishly tricky business. Other criteria tend to apply such as promise and potential, and there is a willingness to experiment or back a hunch which may not be affordable when the stakes are higher.

Thus, the Performance Programme Squad which was announced yesterday as a shadow unit for the Ashes, may be the England team somewhere down the line. But it probably will not.

For instance, there were no fewer than 41 players named in the Performance Programme last year (you had to be a real dud not to receive the nod) split into categories. Of the 15 in the top two loists A and B - that is, judged to be closest to the England team - eight are absent from yesterday's list, presumably consigned to international history. Of the 22 in list C only two have earned promotion.

But there are undoubtedly some exciting names and in choosing them the selectors are not only sticking a pin in the donkey's tail.

Jonny Bairstow

Two years ago he was the first Wisden School Cricketer of the Year after an astonishing season for St Peter's School, York. This summer he played enough swashbuckling, mature innings for Yorkshire to suggest that such future plaudits may have a wider base.

He is the son of the late Yorkshire and England wicketkeeper, David, and like his dad has the nickname, Blue (because he has red hair obviously). Yet to score a first-class hundred, there were eight fifties in his 29 innings this year and a willingness to ensure that he took the responsibility.

He has also been tried as a wicketkeeper, a role at which he may not excel. In an exciting Yorkshire side, ably led by Andrew Gale, Bairstow's assurance at the crease regularly caught the eye. England are clearly keen now that he be part of the next generation.

Danny Briggs

No left arm spinner has excited quite so much at such a young age since Derek Underwood took 100 wickets for Kent in 1963, Briggs is 19, from the Isle of Wight, and impressed all those who watched with his calm approach in the past season.

His 32 Championship wickets came at a cost of nearly 40 runs each, which is hardly in the Underwood category, and he has never had better than 4 for 93. But in the cauldron of limited overs cricket he was splendid and was a key component of Hampshire's Twenty20 victory this season.

Briggs is accurate and gives the ball a chance to turn. Selectors have propelled spinners too quickly before - part of the reason Graeme Swann is so formidable now is that he learned his trade - but England have a history of providing left arm spinners and Briggs can be part of the line.

Adam Lyth

Another of Yorkshire's homegrown products, he has just finished a highly accomplished season. He overtook Joe Sayers, his fellow opening batsman, who was named in the performance programme B category last year with a sequence of grand displays that began in April and never finished.

True, he did not add to his three hundreds after June but he usually have Yorkshire a start at the top of the order. From Whitby, he is the old-fashioned ideal height for a batsman at 5ft 8ins, not too small, not too tall with a solid defensive method.

There is not seemingly a vacancy at the top of the order since the opening spots are occupied by the captain and the vice-captain. But if Lyth can repeat next summer the 1509 runs (second only to Mark Ramprakash who is 18 years his senior) at 52 he made this, he will be Test bound.

Ben Stokes

Those who saw the 19-year-old Stokes blazing away earlier in the season when he made two rapid hundreds in succession had their ardour dampened slightly as the season went on. But of his fearless strokeplay there is no doubt and he finished with 740 runs at 46.85.

Born in Christschuch, New Zealand he was brought up in Cumbria when his dad came to this country to play rugby league. But Durham rightly claim him as their own and have been keen to fast track him.

His bold batting is his strongest suit but he has more than mere pretension to being a fill in medium pace bowler and his five first class wickets in 2010 included his fellow members of the Performance Programme squad, Lyth, Gale and Michael Carberry.

And the one that got away: Adil Rashid

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