Ben Duckett has been selected by the ECB for the 2018 North-South Series in Barbados this March, following his suspension from the rest of the England Lions winter tour of Australia.
Duckett was axed from the Lions squad following an incident in a Perth bar which saw him pour a drink over the head of James Anderson and be given a final warning about his conduct as an England player but has been handed a reprieve.
Steven Mullaney of Nottinghamshire will lead the North, while Sam Northeast of Kent will head the South in squads chosen by ECB national selector James Whitaker alongside Paul Collingwood and Mark Ramprakash, coaches of North and South respectively.
Last year’s North-South Series was held in Dubai and saw the South side complete a comprehensive 3-0 whitewash over the North, who will be looking for some friendly payback when this year’s fixtures take place in March.
A number of the top performers from last year’s North-South Series have since made their international debuts for England, such as the top wicket-takers, Tom Curran and Mason Crane, and the highest run-scorer, Dawid Malan.
Toby Roland-Jones, who missed the Ashes with a stress fracture in his back, and Liam Livingstone, the Lancashire captain who was recently named in England’s Test squad, also made their international debuts in 2017.
On the squads chosen, Whitaker said: “We believe these are two exciting squads which again underline the value of this North-South Series as an opportunity for us to see some strong contenders for white-ball cricket playing at a higher level of competition and intensity.
“The unavailability of several players means the squads are tilted more towards youth and potential this year. The North squad has six players aged 21 or under, and the South squad includes four 20-year-olds plus Sam Curran, who is still only 19.”
Some of the players, such as Sussex youngster Delray Rawlins, may be a surprise inclusion to many. “Some of the players selected have very limited List A experience, but their potential has already been identified with selection on the ECB’s International Pathway,” Whitaker said.
“For example Delray Rawlins is currently in Sydney on an overseas placement and we have three fast bowlers training with the pace programme – Zac Chappell in the North squad and Paul Walter and Tom Helm with the South.
“It is also a good opportunity for more experienced players who have impressed in the county game, such as Steven Mullaney, Brett D’Olivera, John Simpson and Sam Northeast to show what they can do at a higher level.”
South coach Ramprakash said the draw of a possible 2019 World Cup place could provide motivation for the players, saying: “There’s a big incentive for the players to impress as we get closer to the 2019 World Cup. We know Colly and the North will be keen to make amends for what happened in the 2017 series in the UAE.”
North: S Mullaney (Notts, captain), S Hain (Warwickshire*), B Duckett (Northamptonshire), J Clarke (Worcestershire), K Jennings (Lancashire), B D’Oliveira (Worcestershire), A Davies (Lancashire, wk), P Coughlin (Notts), M Fisher (Yorkshire), S Mahmood (Lancashire), R Gleeson (Northamptonshire), Z Chappell (Leicestershire), M Parkinson (Lancashire).
South: S Northeast (Kent, captain), D Bell-Drummond (Kent*), N Gubbins (Middlesex), D Lawrence (Essex), D Rawlins (Sussex), L Dawson (Hampshire), J Simpson (Middlesex, wk), S Curran (Surrey), P Walter (Essex), D Bess (Somerset), T Helm (Middlesex), J Porter (Essex), G Garton (Sussex).
*Means automatic qualification through PCA MVP Rankings