Players to watch in the 2021 LV= Insurance County Championship

What have we got to look forward to in 2021? Well, for cricket fans, there’s the return of the County Championship. Starting in April, this competition is the centrepiece of the domestic English season and an opportunity for the next generation of England Test stars to shine. Here we take a look at five players to keep an eye on over the coming summer...

Haseeb Hameed

County: Nottinghamshire.
Born: 17 January, 1997, Bolton.
Playing role: Opening batsman.

Hameed became the youngest opener to play for England when, at the age of 19, he made his Test debut against India at Rajkot in 2016. Two half-centuries in the three Tests he played on that tour pointed to a bright future. Yet a mysterious loss of form in following years saw him drop off England’s radar completely. A move from Lancashire to Nottinghamshire last year helped revive hopes of an international recall after he scored 272 runs at an average of 38.85 in the Bob Willis Trophy – the shortened competition that replaced the County Championship during the pandemic-hit 2020 summer.
Hameed will be looking to build on that form this year, with the prospect of a place on England’s Ashes tour of Australia next winter a huge motivating factor for a player who, at 23, still has time to fulfil his vast potential.

Did you know?

Hameed is one of several noted alumni of Bolton School. Others include author Monica Ali, whose debut novel Brick Lane was nominated for the 2003 Booker Prize, Ralf Little, star of TV comedies The Royle Family and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, and Oscar-nominated actor Sir Ian McKellen.

Sam Cook

County: Essex.
Born: 4 August, 1997, Chelmsford. 
Playing role: Right-arm medium-fast bowler.

He may be the lesser known of the two Cooks at Essex (behind former England captain Alastair), but the man known as ‘Little Chef’ has certainly proven his worth since his County Championship debut in 2017. Cook’s unerringly accurate medium-fast bowling has seen him take 104 wickets in 34 first-class matches and he’s been a key part of Essex’s recent success. The club won two of the last three Championship titles, the T20 Blast in 2019 and last summer’s Bob Willis Trophy. Cook may be one of the more underrated county bowlers but, out of the current crop at Essex, he’s the most likely to break through to England’s Test team in the near future. Another productive summer may see him realise that ambition.

Did you know?

Just days after helping Essex win their first County Championship title for 25 years at the end of the 2017 season, Cook was back at Loughborough University to start the final year of a degree in history and international relations. He graduated with a 2:1 the following summer.

Tom Lammonby

County: Somerset.
Born: 2 June, 2000, Exeter.
Playing role: Batsman.

While 2020 was in no way a vintage year, for Lammonby, it was a breakthrough one, as he burst onto the scene for Somerset. After making his first-class debut against Glamorgan last August, the youngster hasn’t looked back, scoring three centuries in the Bob Willis Trophy, including one in the final against Essex at Lord’s. The prospect of a full County Championship campaign this summer presents Lammonby with an opportunity to further enhance his reputation. While some young players find it hard to replicate their initial success, the Devon-born batsman has shown enough composure and character to suggest he’ll be able to cope with the added scrutiny and attention this coming summer will bring.

Did you know?

At 20, Lammonby became the youngest player in Somerset’s history to carry his bat – that’s remaining unbeaten for an entire innings in layman’s terms – when he scored 107 against Worcestershire in the Bob Willis Trophy last summer. It saw him surpass a record held by Arthur ‘Dudley’ Rippon since 1914.

Amar Virdi

County: Surrey.
Born: 19 July, 1998, Chiswick.
Playing role: Off-spin bowler. 

As the brightest young spinner in the county game, Virdi looks well on the path to becoming a regular with England in the years to come. After helping Surrey win the County Championship in 2018, his 14 wickets in a single match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge the following summer brought Virdi to the attention of the wider cricketing public. This year promises to be a big one for the youngster. Already a reserve player on England’s 2021 winter tours of Sri Lanka and India, consistent performances for Surrey in the County Championship this summer could be the push that establishes him at an international level. With the prospect of playing in the marquee series against India starting in August, expect big things from Virdi in the months ahead.

Did you know?

Virdi is widely expected to become only the third Sikh cricketer to represent England after Monty Panesar and Ravi Bopara.  But he wouldn’t be the first member of his family to play international sport: his father, Raj, represented Kenya at tennis as a junior.

George Balderson

County: Lancashire.
Born: 11 October, 2000, Manchester.
Playing role: Batsman.

Another batsman who made his first-class debut last summer, Balderson comes from the same Lancashire production line that brought us England icons Andrew Flintoff, Michael Atherton and James Anderson. While it remains to be seen whether he can follow that revered trio’s path onto the senior international stage, there’s been enough to suggest so far that he’s certainly heading in the right direction. Having already represented England at age-group level, Balderson made his maiden first-class half-century when scoring an unbeaten 61 against Derbyshire at Liverpool last September. A patient top-order batsman, Balderson will be hoping for more chances to impress this coming summer. His ability to bowl right-arm medium pace, a skill that brought him nine wickets in five Bob Willis Trophy matches last year, is another reason why Lancashire rate this youngster so highly.

Did you know?

Balderson captained England Under-19s at the 2020 World Cup in South Africa. He followed in the footsteps of Atherton, another top-order Lancashire batsman, who led his country at the Under-19 World Cup in 1988 before going on to become one of England’s most respected Test captains.

LV= is the Official Title Partner of the County Championship. We’ve also teamed up with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to create the #Funds4Runs community fund, a £1million fund created to financially support areas of the recreational game that have been impacted by COVID-19. To find out more, visit LV.com/gi/cricket.