Vitality County Championship: Five players to watch

Ahead of the Vitality County Championship season getting under way on Friday 5 April, here are five young players worth keeping your eye on during the 2024 season.

Tazeem Ali

On a team level, England's ICC Under-19 Men's Cricket World Cup campaign didn't end with success. But for Tazeem Ali, his country's final outing in that tournament was a day to remember. His 7/29 against Zimbabwe goes down as the seventh-best Under-19 ODI figures of all time, and the best by an England player. 

Among the bowlers to have taken better figures at that level are Trent Boult and Irfan Pathan. Ali's in fairly good company, then.

Ali's threat as a leg-spinner cannot be underrated, demonstrating his control and variation during that Zimbabwe rout: three of his wickets came with gorgeous googlies. Much like England's premier leggie, Adil Rashid - who made his first-class debut a month after Ali was born in 2006 - that ability to spin the ball both ways will bamboozle plenty of batters up and down the country. 

He's played just once for Warwickshire, taking 1/49 in the Metro Bank One-Day Cup. Expect him to get plenty more opportunities this summer.

Charlie Allison

Most players take until adulthood, at least, to become a viral sensation. For Charlie Allison, that honour came when he was just six years old. The YouTube video of him batting has received more than 285,000 views, with the young Allison praised for his technique, style, and - above all - his potential. 

He's a batter of immense promise, now 19. During the winter, he was a part of the England squad at the Under-19 Cricket World Cup, batting at six and top-scoring with 76 in his side's final match. 

Allison's Essex appearances thus far have been restricted to all eight Metro Bank One-Day Cup matches in 2023, where he scored two half-centuries. Only overseas signing Beau Webster outscored him during the campaign. 

Charlie Allison in action in a Youth Test against Australia

Josh Hull

Tall, quick, left-arm. You're hooked already, aren't you?

Josh Hull was clocked regularly in the mid-80s in the Metro Bank One-Day Cup final, an occasion on which he bowled a sublime final over when Hampshire needed just eight runs. Here was a barely-19-year-old shining on the big stage.

It wasn't even that surprising. On his first-class debut last summer, then still 18, he took just four balls to remove Adam Lyth. He went on to take eight more wickets in six appearances, alongside his 17 scalps in the One-Day Cup.

At 6 ft 7 in, Hull is a big point of difference in an otherwise right-arm pace Leicestershire attack. 

Ben McKinney

England's captain at the Under-19 World Cup, his talent looks perfect for the brand of cricket Durham play under head coach Ryan Campbell. McKinney was the only player with a strike rate above 100 during the tournament (106.28), leading the run charts for his country. 

A left-handed opening bat by trade, McKinney scored a half-century batting at five against Zimbabwe A in February, before a stint with Matabeleland Tuskers in Harare. 

More recently, he opened against Durham UCCE, scoring 40 and 22 at a good strike rate. Durham's Division Two-winning opening partnership of Alex Lees and Michael Jones won't be separated easily, but McKinney's talent and style will keep him in close contention.

Ben McKinney captained England at the Under-19 World Cup

Finlay Bean

The name Finlay Bean will be known to many county fans, for he is going into his third season as a first-class cricketer. But the Yorkshire opener's progress is worth keeping an eye on this year.

He played in all 13 Championship matches for the club in 2023 (a trip to Gloucestershire was washed out entirely) and among White Rose batters, only his opening partner, Adam Lyth, outscored him. The pair combined for more than 2,000 runs, with Bean contributing 983 of those - only a final-day 11 in an extraordinary chase of 360 denied him a four-figure milestone. He also began 2023 by scoring the Championship's first century.

Bean turns 22 two weeks into this season. If he maintains the form that has earned him his stripes so far in his short career, it would be no surprise to hear him mentioned in England conversations before too long.