Sam Curran (Surrey)
The youngest player on the shortlist, as he only turned 18 on June 3, and his appearances for Surrey this season were restricted until he completed his A-levels. But he’s confirmed the impression he made as a 17-year-old in Surrey’s promotion campaign last summer, as a thrilling all-round talent, making important contributions with bat and ball as they have surged up the Division One table. Represented England at the ICC under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year, and made his England Lions debut this summer, alongside his elder brother Tom.
Ben Duckett (Northants)
Duckett dominated the first two days of the Specsavers County Championship season with a magnificent unbeaten 282 against Sussex, and has continued to make headlines in all forms of cricket. A left-hander who is renowned for his inventive range of shots in white-ball cricket, he retains the ability to play in a more orthodox fashion against the red ball – although he generally remains positive, as he showed in a stunning 185 off 159 balls on a turning pitch against Glamorgan. Called into the England Lions squad for this summer’s Tri-Series against the A-teams of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and responded with innings of 163 not out in Cheltenham and 220 not out in Canterbury. Formerly an England Under-19s wicketkeeper, and turns 22 in October.
Nick Gubbins (Middlesex)
Left-handed opener who made his Middlesex debut in 2014, having made his first-class debut the previous summer for Leeds-Bradford MCCU, but he has really kicked on this season with a key role in Middlesex’s drive for a first Championship title since 1993. He had to wait a while for his first century, but has now made three, including a double against Lancashire at Lord’s. One of the leading runscorers in Division One this season. Went to Radley College – like another left-handed Middlesex opener, Andrew Strauss.
Haseeb Hameed (Lancashire)
One of two Lancashire players on the shortlist, with Liam Livingstone, and also one of three teenagers, with Sam Curran and Dan Lawrence – although he was not selected with them in the England squad for the ICC Under-19 World Cup earlier this year. Hameed, a right-handed batsman from Bolton, had already been handed a senior debut by the Lancashire cricket director Ashley Giles at the back end of the 2015 season. But it is the way he has adjusted to life in Division One that has made such a huge impression this summer – leading to Hameed being mentioned as possible bolter for senior England selection. His best performance yet came in the Roses match at Emirates Old Trafford, in which he became the first Lancashire batsman to score a century in each innings of a Championship match against Yorkshire – and also their youngest to pass 1,000 first-class runs in a season.
Dan Lawrence (Essex)
One of two Essex players on the shortlist, with seamer Jamie Porter, and like Curran he made a big impression for England at Under-19 level, with two centuries in Royal London One-Day Internationals against Australia last summer, and another in the World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year. But Lawrence, who grew up with the game as his father was the groundsman at Chingford CC, had already made a name for himself with a stunning innings of 161 at the Kia Oval early in the 2015 season, against a Surrey team including Kevin Pietersen and Kumar Sangakkara. He was still only 17, and became the third youngest centurion in County Championship history. A tall, wristy right-hander, he has added three more centuries this season as Essex have given him a long run in the team – and also taken handy wickets with his idiosyncratic spin in white-ball cricket.
Liam Livingstone (Lancashire)
A hard-hitting right-hander from Barrow in Cumbria, Livingstone made a splash when hammering 350 in a club knockout competition for Nantwich early in 2015. He was a member of the Lancashire Lightning team who won the NatWest T20 Blast later that summer, but it has been this year that he has established himself as a first-class cricketer. He scored 70 on his debut as Lancashire won their first game back in Division One of the Specsavers County Championship against Nottinghamshire, and has gone on to make two centuries. That earned him a place in the England Lions squad for the Tri-Series against the A-teams of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. He also bowls occasional leg-spin.
Jamie Porter (Essex)
Porter was one of the six names on the original shortlist before being joined recently by his county team-mate Lawrence, and has now taken 50 Championship wickets for the second consecutive season, playing a key part in Essex’s bid for promotion from Division Two. A 23-year-old right-arm seam bowler from Leytonstone, he is the only member of this year’s shortlist who was also included in 2015.
Shiv Thakor (Derbyshire)
Seam-bowling allrounder who captained England Under-19s in 2013 when he was still playing for Leicestershire, before making the short move to Derby at the end of the 2014 season. Top of Derbyshire’s batting averages with 606 runs at 67, including two centuries, and third in their bowling averages with 22 wickets at 31 – although he has missed the closing stages of the season after suffering a back injury against his old club in August.