Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

County Duo Clarke And Whiteley Are Named In England Lions Squad

Worcestershire duo Joe Clarke and Ross Whiteley have been named in the England Lions squad for the first time.

Clarke and Whiteley will feature in the Lions programme this winter against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates.

The pair are initially part of an England Performance Programme squad which will form a batting and spin camp in Dubai from November 11 to December 1 with Clarke the youngest member.

Clarke and Whiteley will then form part of the Lions squad which will take on Pakistan 'A' in five T20 matches in the United Arab Emirates from December 1 to 17.

Clarke has been rewarded after making an instant impact at New Road following his breakthrough into the senior side in June after becoming the first player to score two double hundreds for Worcestershire's Second Eleven.

The former England Under-19 wicket-keeper scored a series of fine half centuries in the LV= County Championship and Royal London One-Day Cup before notching his first century in both competitions.

Clarke hit an unbeaten 131 off 101 balls against Gloucestershire in the RLC and followed that with 101 not out against Sussex in the last LV= CC match against Sussex at New Road.

He also recently signed a new three year contract with Worcestershire.

Worcestershire Director of Cricket Steve Rhodes said: "To make a rapid rise from England Under-19s to Lions after a small amount of time in first class cricket, means people see that he is someone they think has got a special talent to be able to make it at international level very early with a short apprenticeship.

"Let's hope he can fulfil the promise he has already started with. "His strengths are 1) the way he can bat in the sense he is very good at making sure most of the middle of the bat manages to hit the ball which in essence is what batting is all about.

"But 2) it's not just the ability to play. He has got a mental strength for a lad so young that is going to hold him in good stead if he progresses into international recognition."

Rhodes added: "Does Joe reminded me of myself? I didn't have that ability but his determination and working things out and I suppose a little bit of cheekiness is there.

"That little bit of edge he does have if channelled in the right way is something that is going to help him – and has already helped him in trying to make the grade in first team cricket."

Whiteley, who has represented England in the Hong Kong Sixes, has again shown his prowess in white ball cricket this summer and was the joint leading six-hitter in the country in the NatWest T20 Blast with 29 sixes including 11 against Yorkshire at Headingley.

But he has also forced his way into the LV = CC side and put together a series of impressive scores including a century against champions Yorkshire at Scarborough.

Rhodes said: "I've done a lot of work with Ross and when he hits the ball back at you, he hits the ball as hard as anyone.

"I'm delighted he has got called up for the Lions. He is such a clean and destructive hitter. We all know how devastating he is in one-day cricket and he is one of the most dangerous players in one-day cricket in the country.

"No-one has scored more sixes than Ross in the T20 Blast this summer and we saw a very special innings at Headingley.

"it was amazing. It wasn't against military medium bowling. He has got Liam Plunkett running in at 90mph and he has hit him to all parts.

"It was a very special innings. There are an odd one or two around in county cricket at the moment who can hit the ball just as far as Ross but he is right up there in the world I think in the sense that it stays hit, when he hits the ball.

"I look back to when we had Andre Russell who is a terrific striker of the ball and the likes of Chris Gayle but Ross can hit the ball just as far.

"But Ross is also now showing good four-day form as well. He is maturing late in his career late as a batter but he started a little bit later as well and now we are seeing what a special talent he is. It is no surprise to me he has started to do it all formats."

Whiteley has also signed a new contract with Worcestershire for four more years up until the end of the 2019 season.