Thursday, 19 May 2011

England's Young Lions

England named their Lions team to take on Sri Lanka last week, and many thought it was a very strong side, and there weren't many complaints as to who got in. Except a small few from Glamorgan, who were incensed that James Harris hadn't got in.

Harris is only 21 (his birthday was literally on Monday), yet has played an awful lot of first team cricket. He made his First Class debut at 16, and had his first ten-wicket haul at seventeen. He's taken 182 FC wickets at just under 27. He had an excellent winter for the Lions, impressing on tour in the West Indies. Glamorgan fans would have him in the test team. Yet he appears to be a lowly tenth on the selectors' fast bowling pecking order.

Had Harris got into the Lions game, he would have been well placed to impress the selectors with a lot of wickets, and push himself up the rankings. However, he was not, and had to play for Glamorgan instead, who took on Middlesex at Lord's.

If Harris had played for the Lions, he would have come on as a second change bowler with an old ball, and been given the bare minimum of overs and an incredibly limited opportunity to showcase his talents. Instead, he took the new ball for Glamorgan, and shone as he skittled Middlesex's very strong batting line up. Including the prize feathers of Australian test player Chris Rogers, and England captain Andrew Strauss (you may have heard of him).

It's an interesting one, this. Would it have been better for Harris to get experience of practicing and playing against some of the world's top international stars in his Lions teammates and the Sri Lankan opposition, or to take wickets in the County Championship at such a specialist ground in Lord's?

A man who did make the Lions squad, but not the final eleven, was young Danny Briggs. Briggs, like Harris, had a successful winter with the Lions, and is highly tipped for the top. Briggs is a year younger than Harris, and has only played in 27 FC matches. Briggs, a left-arm spinner, wasn't selected for the match as the Lions preferred to go with a four-pronged seam attack, but instead of being allowed to return to Hampshire to play in their matches over the weekend, he has been retained by the Lions for the experience.

It just begs the question, which of the young talents will have got the most out of the week. James Harris with a point to prove taking important wickets and impressing at Lord's, or Danny Briggs, who will be carrying drinks and listening to Ravi Bopara try and sound like a gangster. It seems fairly obvious that at the age the boys are at (21 and 20 respectively) that the best learning comes from actually playing cricket, rather than watching it.

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