By Matt Somerford
Worcestershire have continued to strengthen for the future with confirmation that England Under-19s wicketkeeper-batsman Joe Clarke has agreed a contract extension.
The Shrewsbury-born teenager will remain at New Road until 2016 and becomes the sixth academy product to agree terms in the past fortnight.
Joe Leach, Chris Russell, Tom Fell, Ben Cox and Tom Kohler-Cadmore have also penned two-year deals while Clarke’s England U19s team-mate Ed Barnard is also on the books.
"I'm really excited by both of them (Clarke and Barnard). They wouldn't be playing for England Under-19s if they weren't very good cricketers,” Worcestershire director of cricket Steve Rhodes said.
"With Joe, he is already got a stackful of runs in our second XI this year, averaging 60 odd in the longer format.
"Being the Under-19 wicketkeeper, he is another one of our young players with a very bright future.
"He plays in a very aggressive manner and likes to get on with it and he hits the ball very cleanly. I'm delighted he has extended his contract."
After helping England to the Under-19 World Cup semi-finals earlier this year, Clarke enjoyed a profitable season in the second XI highlighted by his 222 against MCC Young Cricketers at Kidderminster - the highest ever score by a Worcestershire player in the second XI championship.
The 18-year-old was also a part of the team that whitewashed South Africa Under-19s 5-0 in their recent youth ODI series after drawing the two Tests.
"I've had some good performances this summer and the contract extension will give me more chance to improve and push forward in my career,” he said.
"I've been quite happy with my performances for the second XI and hopefully they will continue next year.”
Clarke played on a summer scholarship this season and had been due to take up his first full contract next season, which has been extended by another year to offer him greater security.
"The main aim is to push for the first team but I've just got to keep on performing for the second XI and maybe a chance will come,” he added.
"I'm really pleased to sign the contract extension. With one year, you are under a bit of pressure to perform. I'm going to carry on working hard at my game."
Clarke will miss the end of the summer after suffering a broken finger in the fifth ODI against South Africa at the 3aaa County Ground in Derby last week.