You Never Know

After the excitement of seeing Middlesex win their first trophy since 1993 on Saturday night in front of a pulsating Rose Bowl crowd, a trip up to a hot and relatively deserted Taunton proved an enjoyable if slightly soporific counterpoint.

I arrived with England under-19s on 305-3, Derbyshire's Daniel Redfern and Leicestershire's Greg Smith having put on an unbroken 252 for the fourth wicket on Saturday, a partnership which they extended to an England under-19 record of 287 before Redfern was run out for 151. Smith went on to 157, but most of the entertainment after that was provided by Liam Dawson, with the Hampshire slow left-armer making a punchy century. However, the bowling looked extremely average, the young Kiwis relying on a selection of nondescript seamers and a left-arm spinner who, refreshingly for someone (me) who's spent too much time watching Monty Panesar recently, gave the ball plenty of (probably too much) air.

Of course, the average Taunton pitch tends to make most bowlers look nondescript and it's to the credit of the young Warwickshire seamer Chris Woakes that, after England had declared on 512-8, he got more out of it than anyone else on the day. Having been in his county's first team for much of this season he was also well ahead of anyone else in terms of experience, but, as he ploughed his furrow from the River End, it was easy to see why Allan Donald rates him so highly. In many ways, he looks like a good old-fashioned Midlands seamer, with an uncomplicated action and a big heart; the type of lad who'll run in all day for you. Throw in good pace, a consistent line and some batting ability and you have an excellent package.

If I had to choose one player from those on show yesterday Woakes is the one that I'd pick out for a lengthy career in the first-class game, although I know from my Derbyshire contacts that Redfern is very highly regarded up there and I did see him play one stroke of particular class before he was out.

Whatever happens, you can be sure that plenty of those playing will be heard of again. The last time I got along to one of these games was thirteen years ago and the England team included Trescothick, McGrath, Sales, Flintoff, Solanki and Ormond, with a particularly strong memory being that of the seventeen year-old Alex Tudor taking the new ball late in the day and looking for all the world like the West Indian fast bowler that England needed - our Walsh, our Ambrose, our Bishop. Of course he never did but I recently looked the game up and found that the South African openers trying to keep him out were Mark Boucher and Ashwell Prince.

So, you never know.

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