You know it. I know it. I’m still not sure if they know it, but England just aren’t very good at batting. We’ve picked young English batsmen based on form, picked based on averages, but none of the county players who have been called up really cut the mustard.
Most of us can agree on what the perfect first-class batsman looks like. Yes they need the technique to combat the best bowlers, but that alone is not enough. They also need adaptability to changing conditions, and the skill to deal with spin, seam and pace. But most importantly, they need patience, and the mental fortitude to survive when the going gets tough.
Well, I’m afraid the aforementioned batsman doesn’t exist in English cricket right now. So instead, I’ve decided the kids are all right. The worst thing to do is get excited by a young player and blow expectations of them out of all proportion, so that is exactly what I am going to do. These are the seven young English batsmen under twenty-four who are going to solve all of England’s problems in the future, and who you should keep an eye on this Championship season.
Zak Crawley, 21, First Class Average of 29.40
Yes, I’m starting with a Kent player. Yes, I’m entirely partisan. But extra attention will be on Zak Crawley this season, because there’s a black hole so large at the top of the England order that Matthew McConaughey is trying to pilot a spaceship through it. At 6’5, and favouring an attacking game played predominantly off the back foot, Crawley is not your classical opener, which greatly accelerates the chances of England picking him. Once settled in division one he will score shedloads.
Harvey Hosein, 22, First Class Average of 34.93
Firstly, Hosein is a wicket-keeper batsman, so you can already see Ed Smith’s eye twitching at the prospect of getting all of Buttler, Bairstow, Foakes, Billings and Hosein into the same team. As Marie AntoinEd said: ‘Let them keep wicket’. An organised player in the lower order, Hosein has had an excellent start to the season with scores of 78 and 62 as Derbyshire beat Durham. He can expect ample game time and could excel this season at a county who can compete, but where expectations are never too high.
Tom Kohler-Cadmore, 24, First Class Average of 34.60
The oldest of the young English batsmen on this list, and already with 48 first class matches and seven centuries to his name. He is not the most glamorous name in a Yorkshire batting line up featuring Root, Ballance and Bairstow, and young Harry Brook is also promising at the top of the order. But even as Yorkshire underwhelmed last season Kohler-Cadmore averaged 46. This could be the season he nails down a regular middle order spot, and with England captain Root keeping an eye on how his county gets on, Kohler-Cadmore can put himself in the Ed Smith supervillain glasses shop window this summer.
Will Jacks, 20, First Class Average of 29.18
Surrey’s production line is terrifying. Tom Curran, Sam Curran and Ollie Pope have all been capped at test level recently, but they’re just the tip of the Surrey homegrown iceberg. Amar Virdi and Ryan Patel also had impressive championship winning seasons, but who better to demonstrate the brave new batting generation emerging than Will Jacks, who recently blasted a 25-ball hundred in a pre-season game against Lancashire. Astonishing talent who once he finds his feet at the required level could go powder keg explosive.
Anuerin Donald, 22, First Class Average of 30.68
There was a time when 234 off 136 balls in a Championship match had Donald’s batting looking hotter than the great beast adorning his national flag. But that was three years ago, and his career has been more newt than dragon in the intervening years. Playing in a Glamorgan side devoid of any hope can’t have helped, and his move to Hampshire will either reignite the Welshman’s fire or douse the flame for good as he fades into obscurity. He will have to seriously raise his game to get into a batting line up with Vince, Markram, Northeast and Roussouw, but that extra motivation could be just what he needs.
Sam Hain, 23, First Class Average of 33.89
Another who has been around for a while, but at 23 still relatively young in batting terms. Hain had a decent season in Warwickshire’s title-winning campaign and has the game to handle the step up in class that Division One attacks will pose. There’s no doubting the fabulous array of attacking shots that have taken him to the cusp of England T20 honours, but can he also display the resilience to make match-winning scores? A double ton in Warwickshire’s final pre-season game is promising, but now he needs to translate that form to the season proper.
Haseeb Hameed, 22, First Class Average of 30.91
Argh! There is no player that purists want to succeed more than Hameed, but he is coming off the back of a nightmare two years and has already been written off by some. After making some spectacularly unhelpful comments about his lack of form, Lancashire’s Director Of Cricket released him at the end of 2019. Now he’s off to Notts, where young English batsmen have struggled in recent times. Hameed’s rise and fall have been meteoric, but the romantic in me thinks he will come again. Whether this season, it’s hard to know. A cautionary tale in overhyping young talent, so the perfect way to finish this piece.
Peter Jackson Eastwood