Ben Stokes (Durham – captain)
Test debut: vs Australia, Adelaide, December 2013
"He’s an exciting prospect." Those were the words of national selector Geoff Miller when Stokes was named in the squad for the 2013/14 Ashes. His 5/61 in an ODI against Australia just a week prior to the announcement aided his cause, but four consecutive seasons scoring over 600 County Championship runs for Durham had cemented his red-ball credentials.
Stokes was also claiming regular wickets, ending the 2013 season as the club’s third-leading wicket-taker – 42 scalps at 26.57. When he debuted Down Under, Stokes struck a mesmerising 120 in his fourth innings. Former international Vic Marks, writing in The Guardian, said it "may be the most significant innings by an England player this decade."
Rehan Ahmed (Leicestershire)
Test debut: vs Pakistan, Karachi, December 2022
Ahmed ended his 2022 season with quite a flourish. In only his third first-class appearance, he took 5/114 in a high-scoring Derbyshire innings, before demonstrating his batting prowess. He struck a blistering 122 from just 113 balls with his side in a precarious final-day position.
The 2021/22 winter had already seen a rise to prominence for Ahmed, who impressed Shane Warne while bowling in the Lord’s nets as a 13-year-old, having bowled a sensational googly against Sri Lanka before sealing victory with four wickets in the U19 Cricket World Cup semi-final.
James Anderson (Lancashire)
Test debut: vs Zimbabwe, Lord’s, May 2003
James Anderson’s Test career spans longer than the life of Rehan Ahmed, but what got him selected all those years ago? Well, he burst onto the scene back in 2002. The last of his four wickets on County Championship debut was that of Mark Ramprakash – who had recently played the last of his 52 Tests – for a golden duck.
Anderson went wicketless just three times in 20 innings in 2002, picking up 46 wickets. When 2003 rolled around, he solidified his international claims. Facing champions Surrey in their opening match, he removed the entire top five. Five weeks later, he made his Test debut, and the rest is history.
Gus Atkinson (Surrey)
Test debut: N/A
Atkinson has featured in just 14 first-class matches for Surrey, owing to injuries, but has made his mark since returning to fitness. A quick bowler from the same age group as the likes of Ollie Pope and Sam Curran, Atkinson has been clocked at 90mph.
Though his wickets have predominantly come in short-form cricket thus far – 62 in T20 matches and 16 in List A – his 2023 County Championship season showed what he’s capable of. He claimed 20 wickets in five matches, picking up his first five-wicket-haul at Essex in which he dismissed former Test captain Sir Alastair Cook.
Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire)
Test debut: vs West Indies, Lord’s, May 2012
Tallies of 592 and 918 in his first two County Championship seasons established Bairstow as a reliable and consistent run-scorer, though he had to wait until his third season for his first century. When it arrived, it arrived big: 205 against Nottinghamshire in May 2011. Another followed against Somerset, as did a late summer stint in the white-ball team.
Two weeks before the first Test of summer 2012, Bairstow smashed 182 against Leicestershire, following that with a 50 for England Lions against West Indians before making a Test bow at Lord’s.
Shoaib Bashir (Somerset)
Test debut: N/A
The least experienced member of the squad, 20-year-old Bashir made an impression on his first-class debut. He bowled to Sir Alastair Cook on the first morning of a match against Essex in June, with Cook scoring just two runs from 25 pre-lunch deliveries.
Bashir claimed 10 wickets across six Championship matches but further showed his talents during England Lions’ winter training camp in the UAE. He took three first-innings wickets against Afghanistan A, despite not bowling until the 43rd over of a 53-over innings – then took the seventh over of the second innings and dismissed Afghanistan’s top three.
19-year-old off-spinner Shoaib Bashir has looked very assured on first-class debut— County Championship (@CountyChamp) June 11, 2023
He's bowled beautifully to Sir Alastair Cook: here's all 25 balls of their morning contest#LVCountyChamp pic.twitter.com/WWvkg5iLOn
Harry Brook* (Yorkshire)
Test debut: vs South Africa, The Kia Oval, September 2022
Having made his first-class debut in 2016 against Pakistan A as a 17-year-old, Brook didn’t catapult himself into selection conversations for a while. A century in each of 2018 and 2019 helped establish him in the Yorkshire team, but it was 2021 when he really rose to prominence.
Brook was Yorkshire’s second-leading scorer in the 2021 Championship, two centuries coming in his 797 runs, while he was the Blast’s fourth-leading scorer. In 2022, he made himself a must-pick: his season began with nine 50+ scores from his first 10 innings, and he averaged 107 in just eight Championship matches.
*Brook has withdrawn from the tour due to personal reasons.
Zak Crawley (Kent)
Test debut: vs New Zealand, Hamilton, November 2019
Crawley’s third first-class season ended with a call-up and he had showed off his potential during 2019. He struck two Championship centuries during a season in which only Sam Billings scored more hundreds for Kent, doing so on the front foot, striking at just under 60 during the season.
The counter-attacking potential was clear and cemented in a September match at Nottinghamshire, where his 82 from 102 balls helped set up a very impressive win.
Ben Duckett (Nottinghamshire)
Test debut: vs Bangladesh, Chattogram, October 2016
After a breakthrough 2014, in which he struck his maiden first-class hundred, Duckett rose to prominence across the following two seasons. Four centuries in each of the 2015 and 2016 Championship seasons showed he had the capacity to score runs, and big ones at that. In 2016, his centuries read: 282*, 189, 185, 208.
It had been a decade since any Northamptonshire player scored more in a first-class innings (Chris Rogers’ 319 in 2006) than that 282 against Sussex. Duckett’s form was particularly notable ahead of the tours to Bangladesh and India having averaged 114 at a strike rate of 97 against spin.
Ben Foakes (Surrey)
Test debut: vs Sri Lanka, Galle, November 2018
Many had touted Foakes as the country’s best wicket-keeper long before his maiden Test call. James Foster’s presence meant Foakes kept just once in 28 Championship appearances for Essex, and the move to Surrey allowed him to establish himself.
In his second season at The Kia Oval in 2016, only Tim Ambrose claimed more dismissals in Division One than Foakes’ 46. There was a reliability about his batting too, averaging upwards of 50 in his first Surrey season and upwards of 40 in the following two in the top tier.
Tom Hartley (Lancashire)
Test debut: N/A
2023 proved Hartley’s first season playing consistent Championship cricket after sporadic appearances since his 2020 debut, and the left-arm spinner showed he could continually chip in. He claimed wickets in all but one of 10 matches, becoming Lancashire’s primary spin bowler.
Prior to that, he had caught people’s attention in white-ball cricket, with only Luke Wood claiming more Blast wickets for Lancashire since the start of 2021. And it’s worth remembering Hartley’s batting, too: two half-centuries among 371 red-ball runs in 2023.
Dan Lawrence (Surrey)
Test debut: vs Sri Lanka, Galle, January 2021
Lawrence had made his breakthrough season in Essex's successful promotion campaign of 2016, scoring three centuries among 902 runs. Further credit was built up immediately the following year, when his 141 not out against a James Anderson-included Lancashire in the season's opening match salvaged a draw - it was later cited as having been a critical moment in their Division One title charge.
Another title followed in 2019 and Lawrence again played a key role, his 147 in the penultimate match sparking an innings victory over Surrey giving them enough points to stave off Somerset. A little over 3000 runs across 61 matches saw him named as a reserve for the 2020 home Test series against West Indies and Pakistan, before he was given his first senior call-up for Sri Lanka that winter.
Jack Leach (Somerset)
Test debut: vs New Zealand, Christchurch, March 2018
For two seasons leading up to his selection, Leach had become the Championship’s leading English spin bowler. Only Jeetan Patel took more than his 65 wickets in 2016, while Simon Harmer was the only spinner to top Leach’s 51 in 2017. Aiding his cause was the sheer number of overs he bowled across those seasons: 1046.4, which again only Patel could better by 50.
Leach was relentless. On nine occasions, he claimed five wickets in an innings, and he was testing the edges too – plenty of batters fell caught behind the wicket, and, during the 2016/17 winter with England Lions, four of Leach’s five scalps were stumped by Foakes with the other caught by him.
Ollie Pope (Surrey)
Test debut: vs India, Lord’s, August 2018
Pope had made just 15 first-class appearances when making his Test debut, but he had rapidly demonstrated his talent. To that point in 2018, he was Division One’s leading run-scorer having hit centuries against Hampshire, Yorkshire, and Somerset. His season average stood at 85.50; his career at 63.25.
Having batted at six for Surrey, he moved to five in a pre-series Lions match against India A, hitting an unbeaten 50. Pope ended the 2018 season as the sixth-highest scorer in the Championship.
Ollie Robinson (Sussex)
Test debut: vs New Zealand, Lord’s, June 2021
Despite not making his debut until the following summer, Robinson was first named in a Test squad in July 2020 against West Indies. By then, he had 221 Championship wickets for Sussex and had been one of the circuit’s leading bowlers for two years. Only Simon Harmer claimed more wickets across 2018 and 2019 than Robinson.
He had become used to dismantling batting line-ups, with 10 five-wicket-hauls and four hauls of 10 in the match. The form continued between the West Indies squad and his eventual debut: 43 wickets in 12 innings, three five-fors including a 9/78 against Glamorgan.
Joe Root (Yorkshire)
Test debut: vs India, Nagpur, December 2012
Though he started his Test career batting at six, Root earned his spot on the 2012/13 India having scored runs as an opener. His third and fourth first-class centuries came in the middle of the 2012 season, 125 against Northamptonshire and a mammoth 222 not out against Hampshire.
It had not been long before that Root served notice on his talent with an unbeaten 115 for the Lions against a West Indians side containing Fidel Edwards and Ravi Rampaul. His overall first-class average for the 2012 season was 41.91; it has dropped lower in only two home summers since.
Mark Wood (Durham)
Test debut: vs New Zealand, Lord’s, May 2015
Across his first four summers with Durham and two winters with the Lions, the early-20s Wood played just 23 first-class matches but impressed plenty with his pace. He had five five-wicket-hauls by that stage and averaged 26 with the red ball.
Just one Championship appearance was needed at the start of 2015, claiming six wickets against Nottinghamshire, including that of James Taylor, who had captained Wood in a washed-out ODI debut in Malahide two days prior. It led to Wood’s Lord’s debut, where his first Test wicket was his now-coach, Brendon McCullum.