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  • North-South Series 4m

    North South clash a ‘great shop window’

    Sam Northeast and Lewis Gregory are relishing the chance to show what they can do when Dubai and Abu Dhabi hosts the three-match North v South 50-over series.

    Jet out to Dubai, perform well in the North v South trio of 50-over matches and earn a late call up to England’s Champions Trophy squad.

    That’s the ideal scenario for the 26 players travelling to the United Arab Emirates for Andrew Strauss’s pioneering pre-season hat-trick of matches.

    As well as a clutch of players already on the fringe of Eoin Morgan’s squad, like Mark Wood, Ben Duckett and James Vince, there are also a host of county players eager to make their mark and catch the eye of England’s top brass.

    One of those is Kent captain Sam Northeast, who scored over 2,000 runs across all formats in 2016, and has long been touted for international honours.

    “I’m just going to go out there and do what I do every day at Kent,” he told ecb.co.uk. “Prepare like that, go out and compete and hopefully score some runs.

    “They’ve thrown a lot at it, it's not something that's been thought up overnight. It's going to be an important fixture for them with the Champions Trophy - a big thing for English cricket - approaching.”

    England head coach Trevor Bayliss will attend all three games while his assistant Paul Farbrace takes charge of the South team and fast bowling coach Ottis Gibson the North.

    The three fixtures in March, coupled with the start of the Royal London One-Day Cup in late April, represent an opportunity for players to barge their way into the reckoning before England kick start their Champions Trophy campaign against Bangladesh on June 1.

    “I don’t see any negatives to it really,” Northeast added. “It gives players like me a bit of a shop window, the guys who haven’t been on the Lions, and it means playing some competitive cricket before the start of the season.

    “I think it’ll be competitive. I’m looking forward to it.”

    Sam Northeast

    “I think it’ll be competitive. I’m looking forward to it.”

    Competition will be strong. in addition to the seven players who qualified through the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s Most Valuable Player rankings, eight members of the Lions squad will also be involved.

    Added to that Steven Finn, who took 2-38 in England’s series-clinching ODI win out in the West Indies, and Mark Wood - who excelled in the limited overs format before injury forced him to have surgery on his ankle - will provide added firepower.

    Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory had another consistent season, taking 55 wickets and scoring 677 runs across the three competitions, to bag a place in the South squad.

    The 24-year-old was part of the England squad that travelled to Ireland in 2015 and subsequently had to withdraw from the Lions set-up ahead of a T20 series against Pakistan at the end of that year.

    He is hoping the trip to Dubai can help propel him back into contention with England.

    “I think its a really good initiative,” he said. “It’s something different and the people who have gone out and performed in 50-over cricket are getting a chance to show the England selectors what they can do.

    “It’ll be good competition with the guys they’ve picked in the squad - there’s going to be a high standard of cricket. It’s about putting yourself in the shop window. Some of the England boys will be there and it’ll be a good challenge to play with and against them.”

    Gregory thinks the competition will be a good yardstick for the level his game his at.

    “Obviously, everyone has aspirations to play for England and it’s a great opportunity to show what you’re all about,” he added.

    “I grew up as a kid wanting to play for my country - that’s still there and that’ll never change."

    Lewis Gregory

    “I grew up as a kid wanting to play for my country - that’s still there and that’ll never change. It’s a good chance to show what I’m about and who knows where it can go if you do well.”

    The squads will gather in Dubai ahead of warm-up matches on March 15, with the first two matches of the series at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on March 17 and 19 before it concludes at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi on March 21.

    Squads for North versus South series:

    North: K Jennings (Durham, capt), B Duckett (Northamptonshire Steelbacks*), S Hain (Warwickshire), J Clarke (Worcestershire Rapids, wk), L Livingstone (Lancashire Lightning), J Leaning (Yorkshire Vikings), T Bresnan (Yorkshire Vikings*), J Poysden (Warwickshire), G White (Northamptonshire Steelbacks*), M Wood (Durham), S Mahmood (Lancashire Lightning), P Coughlin (Durham), H Gurney (Notts Outlaws*).

    South: J Vince (Hampshire, capt), D Bell-Drummond (Kent Spitfires), T Alsop (Hampshire), D Malan (Middlesex), S Northeast (Kent Spitfires), L Dawson (Hampshire*), B Foakes (Surrey, wk), T Curran (Surrey), L Gregory (Somerset*), T Groenewald (Somerset*), T Roland-Jones (Middlesex), S Finn (Middlesex), M Crane (Hampshire).

    * - automatic selection through position in Professional Cricketers’ Association’s Most Valuable Player rankings for the 2016 Royal London One-Day Cup

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