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Last Updated: Friday, 30 December 2005, 10:00 GMT
Six to watch in 2006
BBC Sport suggests six players for English cricket fans to keep an eye on during summer 2006.

Liam Plunkett
Liam Plunkett

The advice for Durham pace bowler Plunkett is simple - stay fit, keep taking wickets and bide your time.

Such was the impression made by the 20-year-old on the pre-Christmas tour to Pakistan, where he played a Test and all five one-dayers, that it will be a surprise if he is not on the plane to India in February.

Already capable of speeds well in excess of 80mph, Plunkett needs to work on improving his consistency and control, but it will be interesting to see how he performs on livelier wickets if he gets a chance during the summer.

He has plenty of batting potential as well and his contribution of 56 to a stand of 100 with Vikram Solanki after England had been reduced to 130-8 in Lahore shows he could eventually become an all-rounder.

Alastair Cook
Alastair Cook

A former England Under-19 captain, it appears to be just a question of time before Cook makes his entry at senior international level.

He demonstrated his tremendous potential with an innings of 214 for Essex against Australia in September, and was later summoned to Pakistan to provide cover for England.

The Caribbean is likely to be Cook's next port of call, with the England A team set to play two 'Tests' and five one-day games against West Indies A in February and March.

"He is now on the bottom rung of the England ladder and has got to try and climb it," is Essex batting coach Graham Gooch's assessment. Few would bet against him reaching the top.

Stuart Broad
Stuart Broad

The son of former England opening batsman Chris, Broad junior has instead begun to make a name for himself with the ball.

Standing 6ft 5ins tall, he relies more on accuracy than express pace, but had enough nip to pick up 30 wickets at a cost of 27.9 runs each for Leicestershire in his first summer of Championship cricket.

He also made an impact for the England Under-19 team against Sri Lanka, with nine wickets in three one-day internationals and match-winning figures of 5-17 in the first youth Test at Shenley.

A winter at the National Academy, working with new head coach Peter Moores, can only benefit Broad as he tries to become only the 12th player to follow his father into the England Test side.

Nathan Bracken
Nathan Bracken

Seam bowling was Australia's Achilles heel during the Ashes series, with Jason Gillespie and Michael Kasprowicz well below their best and Glenn McGrath missing two Tests because of injuries.

Since then, left-armer Bracken has emerged as the first-choice back-up to McGrath and Brett Lee, taking 4-48 on the final day to help them to a 379-run win over West Indies in Brisbane in November.

England fans would therefore be well advised to keep a close eye on Bracken when he turns out for Worcestershire during the 2006 county season.

Now 28, he is at his peak and determined to hang onto his place in the Test squad, and do his bit to help Australia regain the game's most coveted prize.

Salman Butt
Salman Butt

Sri Lanka and Pakistan are the two sides who will be providing the opposition for England during the 2006 season.

And it will be interesting to see how Pakistan left-hander Butt copes with conditions in the second half of the summer after a profitable series against Harmison, Flintoff and Co on home soil.

He contributed 300 runs, including an innings of 122 in Multan, to his side's recent 2-0 success and his improvement is excellent news for a Pakistan side which has struggled to find openers of the required quality in recent years.

Whether his current partnership with Shoaib Malik endures is open to question, but 21-year-old Butt appears to have the required range of strokes and application to establish himself as a regular at the top of the order.

Katherine Brunt
Katherine Brunt

When Lucy Pearson announced her retirement in April, the England women's team was deprived of its bowling spearhead.

It was hardly the news skipper Clare Connor and the selectors wanted to hear ahead of a summer series against Australia.

But up stepped Katherine Brunt, an aggressive 20-year-old who models her approach to the game on Darren Gough, with match figures of 9-111 and an invaluable innings of 52 at Worcester as they won the Women's Ashes for the first time for 42 years.

A broken bone in her left hand forced Brunt home early from the winter tour to India, and she will be hoping for a happier outcome when England take them on again on home soil in 2006.

A-Z of 2005
27 Dec 05 |  Cricket
Year in photos
22 Dec 05 |  Photo Galleries
Cricket quiz 2005
20 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

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