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Six cricketers to watch in 2008

Joe DenlyBoyd RankinChris JordanTim AmbroseDale SteynHolly Colvin

By Jamie Lillywhite

As one year gives way to another, it is time to look forward rather than back - so who are the names cricket followers should be looking out for in the 2008 English season?

My record as a pundit is an excellent one - I backed Darren Sammy to shine for West Indies at the ICC World Twenty20 tournament and he didn't appear in either match they played during a brief appearance in the tournament!

Normally three county hopefuls, one from each of the two sides touring England and a member of the England women's team are chosen, but with due deference to New Zealand, no name leaps out from their squad, so we have four county players this year.

As in the best traditions of Wisden, players chosen in previous years cannot reappear. So here goes....


Joe Denly
Denly has scored runs for the Lions and is eyeing a Test chance
The 21-year-old Kent opener has already been earmarked as a potential England player because of his mature approach to the business of accumulating runs at the top of the order.

He made an unbeaten 115 against a Hampshire attack led by Shane Warne and Stuart Clark last summer - not bad considering his side were all out for 199 - and has honed his talents by playing Australian grade cricket during the winter.

He proved his versatility with the bat by striking five fours in a breezy 28 during Kent's Twenty20 Cup final triumph.

Leg-spin bowling provides another string to his bow and though he only sent down 67 Championship overs and took six wickets, one of those happened to be Warne.


Boyd Rankin
How long will it be before Rankin changes Irish colours for English?

Any bowler capable of moving the ball off the seam at a brisk pace from a height of 6ft 7, whilst retaining consistent accuracy, is going to capture the attention.

Rankin did just that during Ireland's memorable World Cup campaign in the Caribbean where he captured 12 wickets in nine matches, including 3-36 in a famous win over Pakistan.

Fitness remains the biggest obstacle to further progress and he was limited to only three Championship appearances for Derbyshire in 2007.

The 23-year-old subsequently chose to sign a two-year contract with Warwickshire, where tutelage from legendary paceman Allan Donald will surely enhance his career.


The West Indies cannot afford to lose talented young players but that looks likely to happen with 19-year-old pace bowler Chris Jordan.

Former England batsman Bill Athey is the man responsible; he spotted Jordan's progress and offered him a trial at Dulwich College, and from there he was swiftly snapped up by Surrey.

In his first match for the county, a Pro40 game with Middlesex, he dismissed England batsman Owais Shah, and in five Championship matches he snared 20 wickets at a cost of only 24.5 runs each.

Jordan describes himself as "100% Barbadian" but plays for Surrey as a British player on account of his grandmother's UK residence and is eligible for England. In this list, he just pips Glamorgan teenager James Harris.


Tim Ambrose
Ambrose is a free-scoring batsman and nimble behind the stumps

The England wicket-keeping position has remained a persistent theme for debate since the retirement of Alec Stewart in 2003, and 25-year-old Australian-born Ambrose could emerge as a serious rival to Matt Prior.

When England coach Peter Moores was in charge at Sussex, he preferred Prior behind the stumps, which led Ambrose to seek a change of county.

That came in 2006 with Warwickshire, and established at Edgbaston he demonstrated his appetite for big runs with an unbeaten 251 against Worcestershire last summer, a Championship campaign in which he averaged 45 and also took 36 catches with the gloves.

Moores opted for Prior again when he took the international reins, but Ambrose proved he was in the minds of the England selectors by winning a place in the Lions team to face India.


Dale Steyn
Many international batsmen have been unsettled by Steyn's pace

England's summer series against South Africa should be a mouth-watering contest and one man the hosts will have to keep a close eye on is 24-year-old paceman Dale Steyn.

He made his Test debut against England, when they toured South Africa in 2004-5, but is much improved since then and has the ability to combine 90mph pace with prodigious away swing.

The majority of his success thus far has been in the Test arena, where he has taken 71 wickets from his opening 15 matches, with six five-wicket hauls.

He gained useful experience of English conditions with Warwickshire in 2007 and will be looking forward to returning to Edgbaston in the penultimate match of the four-Test series in August.


Holly Colvin
Given her tender years Colvin could be a record breaking wicket-taker

Left-arm spinner Colvin is still only 18 but is already a seasoned campaigner having made her Test debut at the age of 15, when she took three wickets against Australia, having arrived at Hove that week as a net bowler.

She was one of the few England players to impress during a disappointing quadrangular series campaign in India in 2007, taking three wickets in both of the team's final two matches.

Colvin claimed three wickets again in the opening match of the home series with New Zealand at Taunton in August and produced career-best figures of 3-31.

She will be a key figure as England try to retain the women's Ashes in Australia in January but will return home before the New Zealand leg of the trip as she looks to add to her 10 GCSE A* grades.

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see also
County ins and outs 2008
18 Sep 08 |  Counties
Six to watch in 2007
01 Jan 07 |  Cricket
Six to watch in 2006
30 Dec 05 |  Cricket
Six to watch in 2005
01 Jan 05 |  Cricket
Six to watch in 2004
01 Jan 04 |  Cricket
Six to watch in 2003
16 Apr 03 |  Cricket
Six to watch in 2002
21 Dec 03 |  Cricket

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