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Page last updated at 08:47 GMT, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 09:47 UK

Somerset batsman James Hildreth eyes England opening

James Hildreth in action at an ECB Performance Programme Training Session
Hildreth linked up with England at various times over the winter

Somerset's James Hildreth is keen to start the season in fine form and force his way into England contention for the Test against Sri Lanka in late May.

The 26-year-old is on the radar of the England selectors as one of the possible replacements for the retired Paul Collingwood in the Test arena.

"All I can do is focus on the start of the season and try and score some runs," Hildreth told BBC Somerset.

"Hopefully I'll be knocking on the door by the time the series comes around."

Hildreth scored 1,440 runs at an average of 65.54 in the County Championship for Somerset last season.

He was the third highest run scorer in four-day cricket, behind Surrey's Mark Ramprakash and Adam Lyth of Yorkshire, and he boasted the third best average in Division One behind overseas stars Hashim Amla and David Hussey.

In addition he scored seven centuries, more than any other batsman and the same as the rest of the Cidermen's squad put together.

Collingwood's retirement from Test cricket has created an opening in the middle order with the likes of Eoin Morgan, Ravi Bopara, Yorkshire's Andrew Gale and Hildreth vying for the spot.

Morgan will miss the start of the season while on IPL duty, an option Bopara turned his back on so as to boost his own profile on the domestic scene before the series against Sri Lanka begins in Cardiff on Thursday, 26 May.

County Championship
1,440 runs at 65.45
Clydesdale Bank 40
537 runs at 76.71
Friends Provident T20
403 runs at 33.58

"If you speak to any English county cricketer, in the back of their mind they're doing everything because they want to play for their country and I'm no different. I wake up, get in the nets and go to the gym because I want to play for my country," said Hildreth.

He kicked off a busy winter by getting married before going to Australia with England's performance squad. While down under he linked up with the Ashes side when nominated as 12th man on the fourth day of the Brisbane Test.

After Christmas he played in the Caribbean T20 for Somerset and then led England Lions to a joint-third finish in the West Indies Cricket Board regional four-day championship, enhancing his reputation in the process by scoring 546 runs at an average of 60.66.

"It's been pretty mad and I haven't seen my wife that much," Hildreth said of his 'downtime' over the off-season.

"I had five weeks in Australia, which was a great experience while the Ashes was on, and I gained some good experience there.

"And the West Indies is a wonderful place to travel to. I had 11 weeks there and gained a lot from captaining. I learnt a lot about the tactical awareness of the game and I learnt about man-management off the field."

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see also
England quartet to miss IPL start
08 Apr 11 |  Cricket
Collingwood ends his Test career
05 Jan 11 |  England
Australia trip excites Hildreth
23 Sep 10 |  Somerset

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