Three burgeoning talents given a chance to shine this winter

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Ashley Cowan

(Essex)

A mature performance and three wickets for 29 in the NatWest final against Warwickshire probably altered this winter's destination for the 22-year- old Essex seamer from Sri Lanka, with the A tour, to the Caribbean with the seniors.

An outstanding performer on the golf course, as well as on rugby and hockey pitches, the 6ft 4in Cowan made his Essex debut two seasons ago but suffered with severe back problems soon after that.

An operation helped to cure a stress fracture, and a remodelled bowling action has since helped to prevent a recurrence, although a shoulder injury has caused some problems this season.

With his open-chested approach Cowan is no more than fast-medium in pace, but his outswinger is already lethal in the right conditions, although his inswinger still needs more work. As he showed at Lord's, he is capable of dropping on an awkward length when the pressure is on.

His dedication to full-time cricket was questioned when his Essex career began, but any doubts about his temperament seem to have been resolved this season, while his strike rate has also improved dramatically.

Dougie Brown

(Warwickshire)

Alloa-born all-rounder who rose through the ranks at Edgbaston during the heady days of triples and doubles under Dermot Reeve. A hard-hitting batsman and a brisk medium pace seam bowler, like Cowan he performed well in the NatWest final and must have been close to the full tour.

Again like Cowan, Brown is an all-round sportsman, good enough at football to have played for Scotland Under-18s at Hampden. Brown, 27, was a late starter in cricketing terms and it sometimes shows in a slightly rustic action, but there can be no doubting its effectiveness as he has already taken 75 wickets this season.

The subject this summer of something of a tug-of-war between his Scottish origins and his cricketing aspirations: the Scots would like him to commit himself to their 1999 World Cup campaign but Brown, understandably, is trying to follow a path trodden by his fellow Scot Mike Denness, among others, and play Test cricket for England.

Included in both the one-day and the A tour squads, he has excelled with the ball this season, but his batting has not yet fulfilled its promise as he awaits his maiden first-class century despite passing 50 seven times this year.

Jonathan Powell

(Essex)

Among a number of less well-known names in the A squad, Powell's is perhaps the least known of the lot. A tourist with the England Under-19s to Pakistan last summer, the 18-year-old Essex off-spinner made his Championship debut against Leicestershire at Colchester this season, but his first-team opportunities have been limited by the presence of Peter Such.

According to the Essex coach Keith Fletcher, he is no mean batsman, as a century against Lancashire 2nd XI this season testifies, and he also appeared in the recent Under-19 internationals against Zimbabwe.

"He's a top lad and he wants to go places," says Fletcher, who admitted nevertheless that he was "surprised" by Powell's elevation. "It came completely out of the blue but I'm delighted," Fletcher added.

Another keen golfer, Powell's brother Mark was on the Essex staff for two seasons and now plays Minor Counties cricket for Norfolk.

Winner of the Daily Telegraph Under-15 Bowling Award in 1994, Powell will join the A team in Sri Lanka with his fellow-tourist Owais Shah following their involvement in the Youth World Cup.

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