Jack Vittles’ best current county players XI never to play for England

Vittles ECB DeniedFreelance journalist Jack Vittles picks his best XI current county cricketers never to have played for England and selects two Somerset stars among a very strong line-up.

With the selection of the England squads being among the most talked about facets of the game, I thought I would turn my attention to the XI players who failed to gain recognition.

I humbly present my Current County Cricket XI who have never represented England. I’ve tried to include all formats of the game and considered both those who haven’t been picked in the Test or ODI/T20 formats.

Please feel free to voice your dis/agreement with me via Twitter.

  1. Adam Lyth
  • 6505 FC Runs @ 42.51, 14 Hundreds
  • 2245 LA Runs @ 31.61, 1 Hundred

Adam Lyth has been selected for the opener’s berth primarily due to his FC form, and also to keep the required Yorkshiremen in the team above the threshold, to avoid getting shouted at next time I’m in Scarborough. Lyth has particularly excelled during the last two summers, leading to him being considered the next cab of the rank for role of Alastair Cook’s partner. Last season, Lyth compiled nearly 1500 runs at an average just shy of 70, and stroked his way to 6 centuries. He has spent his winter opening for the England Lions, showing that he is firmly on Peter Moores’ radar. At 27, Lyth in now entering his prime batting years, and unlike some others in this XI, he has time on his side. He has recently signed a new three-year deal with the White Rose county, and he’ll be hoping to add an England call-up to his 2014 County Championship medal.


  1. Jimmy Adams
  • 11206 FC Runs @ 39.23 20 Hundreds
  • 2978 LA Runs @ 39.70, 2 Hundreds

While Lyth is still hopeful of an England call up, unfortunately, for Jimmy Adams that ship has well and truly sailed. Adams has forged a successful county career for Hampshire and also led the side with distinction for many years. He gained his place in this XI, over Mark Stoneman, due to his longevity. A veteran of 13 county seasons, Adams has been dependable and reliable in churning out runs year after year. It is perhaps unfortunate for Adams, that his best batting form coincided with England’s most settled and consistently performing batting line-up for a generation.

  1. James Vince
  • 5496 FC Runs @ 42.93, 15 Hundreds
  • 2418 LA Runs @ 35.04, 3 Hundreds

To fill the important number 3 spot, I’ve gone for a player who surely won’t be in this XI for long. Vince is only 23 but it already feels like he has been in the county game for a long while. The comparisons with Michael Vaughan have been repeated ad nauseum, and his reputation has only continued to grow. He has performed admirably for the Lions on their recent trip to South Africa, and he can’t be far off a full England call-up. Not only are his statistics impressive, Vince also possess what many will call a ‘Test match technique’. When watching him bat in county cricket, you can easily see him adapting readily to Test Cricket. His time will come, but for now he can be the middle order star in this XI.

  1. James Hildreth
  • 11717 FC Runs @ 42.45
  • 4300 LA Runs @ 33.85

Probably the most obvious selection for the batting line-up, Hildreth is a player who has always seemed ready for higher honours. For a decade he has been the mainstay of Somerset’s middle order and was a regular in the England Lions side between 2005-11. Hildreth was the next batsmen in line for England for what seemed like years. His rampant run scoring in 2010, where he accumulated nearly 1500 runs, led to him touring that winter as captain of the Lions. It appears now, that England have moved on from Hildreth, that is a huge shame. As a Somerset fan, I’ve watched a lot of him over the years, and he truly is the real deal as a batsman. He can play all the shots in the book and make the ‘daddy’ hundreds England selectors crave. But perhaps it is his mentality that has meant England have never come calling. There is some talk that he wouldn’t hack it in the cutthroat world of international cricket, but I for one, would love to have seen him given his chance.

  1. Alex Gidman
  • 11182 FC Runs @ 37.02, 24 Hundreds
  • 4458 LA Runs @ 27.51, 5 Hundreds

Alex Gidman was, and perhaps still is, one of the ‘muppets’ that Kevin Pietersen vocally admonished. While Gidman’s statistics may not immediately signal that he should be in this XI; he does however, epitomise everything I love about professional county cricketers. Blessed with a talent for batting, Gidman has squeezed all the rewards he can from his career, and has continually churned out results. Added to that, he also shouldered the burden of captaining a side, which was not blessed with the players nor money of other counties. His devotion to Gloucestershire has been commendable, and his winter move to Worcestershire is an interesting one. I would love to see him play out his last few years by scoring a bucketful of runs at New Road, and showing the England selectors what they missed out on.

  1. Sam Billings
  • 1153 FC Runs @ 33.91, 1 Hundred
  • 958 LA Runs @ 43.53, 2 Hundreds

Wicketkeepers were hard to come by for this XI, primarily because England appear to have picked all of them at some point. With a doff of the cap to the indefatigable Mark Wallace, I’m going for Billings as my gloveman. The 23 year old is fast becoming one of the county games most exciting limited overs batsmen, and as I always tend to do, so far I have preferred batsmen who excel in the longer form. Billings will give this side some much-needed firepower as well as taking his place behind the stumps. Like Vince, I doubt that Billings will remain in this XI for much longer. With England attempting to play an aggressive style of cricket under Eoin Morgan, it wouldn’t surprise if we don’t see Billings in an England shirt before the summer is out.

  1. Darren Stevens
  • 12482 FC Runs @ 35.35, 29 Hundreds, 258 Wickets @ 29.89, 10x5W
  • 6681 LA Runs @ 29.95, 5 Hundreds, 108 Wickets @32.06, 2x5W

Again with an eye on the limited overs format, Darren Stevens is an absolute must in this side. A true county fan favourite, the all rounder has served both Kent and Leicestershire during an 18-year career. Renowned as a limited overs and T20 specialist, Stevens has increasingly put in top-notch FC performances for Kent also. Age does not appear to be slowing him down, in 2014 Stevens scored 859 runs and took 56 wickets as he was ever present in Kent’s Championship side. Stevens has played for the Lions in the past, but never appeared that close to recognition, maybe paying the price for excelling in his later years. But England’s loss has certainly been county cricket’s gain, as he has been slamming sixes and taking wickets for fun around the country, for the last decade and a half.

  1. Peter Trego
  • 7224 FC Runs @ 32.98, 11 Hundreds, 339 Wickets @ 35.55, 4x5W
  • 3329 LA Runs @ 30.54, 6 Hundreds, 146 Wickets @ 32.95, 2x5W

A man who will feel the upmost sympathy for the player batting one spot above him, Peter Trego has been a consistent performer for Somerset for a decade. As with Stevens, it is the shorter format where he has been most harshly overlooked. In an era when England picked players such as Alex Wharf and Kabir Ali, Trego was exceptionally hard done by. His bowling has always been skilful, particularly in 40/50 over matches, but his short game batting has often been world class. In a time when England were crying out for some aggressive impetus from the lower order, Trego and his bludgeoning style were shockingly overlooked. With Trego, it is not only that he was good enough to be playing international cricket, it is that there were others who were playing, that were nowhere near his standard. Like many in this XI, his time for an England call-up has almost certainly passed, but I doubt that will stop him harassing county bowlers for a few years yet.

  1. Will Gidman
  • 2752 FC Runs @ 39.88, 5 Hundreds, 194 Wickets @ 22.13, 9x5W
  • 615 LA Runs @ 25.52, 42 Wickets @ 30.85

On statistics alone, it is simply unfathomable how Will Gidman has not been called for higher honours. His ability to score crucial runs in the lower order and also to take the new ball, make him an undeniably valuable cricketer. In 2011 he became only the 11th player to do the double of 1,000 runs and 50 wickets in an English first class season. I have stated before* that Gidman has been overlooked only because he plays in division 2 for an apparent unfashionable club. His consistency of performance has led to him being snapped up by Nottinghamshire for the coming season. While I obviously would love to see Gidman get into the England set-up, his selection over the next year or two would only serve to show that England are only looking at certain counties to select their players.

* http://www.cricketworld.com/is-england-s-test-side-a-closed-shop-/37494.htm

  1. David Masters
  • 612 FC Wickets @ 25.28
  • 162 LA Wickets @ 31.72

Yet another player who has blossomed in the later years of his career. While at Leicestershire, there was certainly no case to say that Masters had been unfairly overlooked by England. But since moving to Essex, Masters has been nothing short of sensational. His pure wicket taking ability has been outstanding; he has taken over 90 wickets in the last two seasons at an astonishing average of just 20. He’s never got a sniff of England honours due to his bowling style, his slow seaming deliveries would, in all likelihood, be redundant at Test level. In the case of Masters, I’m not going to argue that he has been overlooked unfairly, more that he is simply one of the most skilful county players never to have played for England.

  1. Gary Keedy
  • 691 FC Wickets @ 3146
  • 119 LA Wickets @26.47

The spin bowler’s berth was another difficult selection. In the end I’ve maybe bent the rules a little, but Gary Keedy did play 3 first class games for Nottinghamshire at the end of last season and is still registered as a player. For longevity and consistent performance, it is hard to look past the slow left arm tweaker from Wakefield. Making his debut as far back as 1994, his career has spanned an entire generation. Indeed, some of his current county colleagues weren’t even born when he started out in the county game. Keedy has been unfortunate in not being selected for England in two ways. Firstly, he was a late bloomer, his skill coming to the fore in his last five years at Lancashire, and culminating in a famous championship triumph in 2011. Secondly, while he enjoyed his renaissance, England had in Graeme Swann, their most talented spinner for over 30 years. His skill and dedication has however has earned him a small consolation prize –a place in this XI!

Vittles XI

I could easily have filled every spot in this XI twice over; I’d love to hear how your XI’s would look. Please message me on twitter (@jackvsport).

Many thanks to Jack for allowing us to reproduce this blog on The Incider. You can read Jack’s daily musings on cricket and football at: http://jackvittles.wordpress.com/ or follow him on Twitter at @JackVSport