Last year we selected ten players to watch at the outset of the season and with the exception of Adam Lyth and Adil Rashid, for once our predictions proved pretty accurate. This year, we've opted to name an XI to shine.
Joe Denly (Middlesex, Age 26, First-Class batting average 34.47): Seemed to be the next man in line when he broke into the England limited overs side in the summer of 2009, but then suffered a long barren run until a resurgence in form in the second half of last summer. A change of scenary at Lord's may well add impetous to the revival.
Joe Root (Yorkshire, 21, 35.03): Impressed many shrewd observers in his rookie season and is a good bet to develop further in his sophomore year. Of all the young batsmen in County Cricket, it is Root who appears to have the assurance, technique and resoluteness required to be a potential successor to Andrew Strauss when he eventually makes way at the top of the order in the Test side.
James Taylor (Nottinghamshire, 22, 50.38): Looks as classy as a first-class average of 50 would suggest. The move from Grace Road will give him and the England selectors an opportunity to see how he fares against Division 1 bowling attacks. The number six spot in the Test side is up for grabs and a good debut season at Trent Bridge could end with Taylor filling the role.
James Vince (Hampshire, 21, 31.91): Has a look of Michael Vaughan with his classical, upright and attacking style, but has thus far failed to demonstrate the consistent returns his obvious talent would justify. A season in the company of Simon Katich at the Rose Bowl could be just what the young buck needs.
Tom Maynard (Surrey, 23, 30.98): Made the great leap forward in his first season at The Oval with 1,000 runs in Division 2 at 40 and with three hundreds. An aggressive, fast-scoring batsman who is a good outside bet for England's squad to defend the World T20 in Sri Lanka in September.
Ben Stokes (Durham, 20, bat - 43.64, ball - 37.35): One of our ones to watch in 2010 and 2011, Stokes justified our faith by making a storming start to last season before injury ruled him out for six weeks in mid-summer. Has averaged over 40 with the bat in the last two years and continues to improve with the ball. Just don't call him the new Andrew Flintoff - not yet, anyway.
Adil Rashid (Yorkshire, 24, bat 34.09, ball 34.46): Had a poor 2011 and his progress seems to have stalled, but it must be remembered that this leg spinner is still only 24 and already has 280 first-class wickets under his belt. Whispers of a poor work ethic and inability to develop persist, but we're backing him to come good eventually - a much improved 2012 would be a good start.
Michael Bates (Hampshire, 21, 15.57): Many including James Foster have raved about his glovework, which is a good enough recommendation for us. However, the young keeper will need to improve significantly on his batting average otherwise like Foster and Chris Read before him a long international career will elude him.
Stuart Meaker (Surrey, 23, ball 30.07, bat 16.17): Very fast and extremely impressive in Surrey's promotion winning side last season. So much so, that he earned a call up to England's one day squad for the ill fated series in India. With Surrey's potentially lethal attack likely to make a big splash in Division 1, this South African bowler is a good bet for further international honours.
Simon Kerrigan (Lancashire, 21, ball 24.32): Emerged from the shadow of Gary Keedy to devastating effect by taking nine for 51 in the penultimate game of last season to keep Lancashire's Championship hopes alive. Could well become the first-choice spinner as his side seek to defend their title.
Reece Topley (Essex, 18, ball 23.55): The 6' 7" bowler took to first-class cricket like a duck to water with 14 wickets in his first three championship matches last season and looks to be a thrilling prospect. With prodigies like Topley around, England's selectors really could be forgiven for believing that fast bowlers grow on English oak trees.
2011 County Cricket Review: including Heroes of the Season, Best and Worst XIs, and a whole host of other nonsense
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