Five players to blossom during the new season

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The Independent Online
Ashley Giles


Age: 24. Speciality: Slow left arm.

One of the many successes of the triumphant England A tour to Australia, where he took 19 first- class wickets. Surrey-born but, having developed into a spinner, automatically entered that county's blind spot in the bad old days. Warwickshire debut in 1993. In last season's Championship he took 55 wickets at a respectable 27.81 (64 wickets in all first-class matches) and completed an all-rounder's double by scoring more than 500 runs, including his maiden first-class century. Highly regarded for his guile and variations and should pose a serious challenge to Phil Tufnell for his England place before very long, as well as serious problems again for batsmen this summer.

Ben Hollioake


Age: 19. Speciality: Pace bowler/all-rounder

In the Sunday League last summer he made a significant contribution to Surrey's title, including a return of 5 for 10 against Derbyshire. Alec Stewart, who kept wicket in the 40-over competition, said that Hollioake consistently hit the gloves harder than any other bowler. Very quick deliveries off the pitch. Had an impressive England Under 19 tour to Pakistan. His older brother, Adam, predicts great things, claiming, and he should know, that cricket comes easily to Ben. A fearless batsman with natural timing, a useful and brave fielder. Representative honours cannot be far away.

James Kirtley


Age: 22. Speciality: Right arm, fast-medium bowler

The nickname "Amby" is a clue. He may not be as fast as his hero Curtly Ambrose but Kirtley is a fine prospect. He embarrassed the England tourists in the winter, taking 5 for 53 to help Mashonaland to a crushing eight- wicket victory. The half-dozen or so Championship matches towards the end of last season revealed enough potential to spell trouble in the future. The enforced absence of Jason Lewry could well mean more responsibility for this Eastbourne-born six footer. Perhaps a trifle unlucky not to get a game for The Rest against England A, but, again, representative opportunities not far away.

Owais Shah


Age: 18. Speciality: Right- handed upper-order batsman.

The schoolboy who could run masterclasses in batting. Studies and Middlesex's traditional reluctance to over-expose youngsters too early have limited his first-class appearances, but his five Championship matches, which included a couple of fifties, convinced many seasoned observers that he has genuine pedigree. His class was underlined on the England A tour with a clutch of chunky scores, including half-centuries in both innings against a New South Wales side. Once he has completed his A Levels in Economics and Sports Studies at Lampton's School in Hounslow, he hopes to read for a BSc in Business and Finance.

Vikram Solanki


Age: 21. Speciality: Batting, off-spinning all-rounder.

He may have been born on 1 April, but Solanki is no fool. A genuine prospect who can not only bat and bowl, but has also proved himself to be one of the finest fielders around, displaying an athleticism and agility that allows him to go where no fielder has gone before. He needs to turn fifties into hundreds but he still finished impressively last season, third in Worcestershire's batting averages (734 at 43.17) and fifth in the bowling, his off-spin realising 26 wickets at 31.34. He also hung on to eight catches for good measure. He should not have long to wait before he goes on to higher things.