Joe Root says he and his England team-mates, including Yorkshire colleague Harry Brook, are relishing their forthcoming Test series in Pakistan, which starts next week.
England are playing a Test series in Pakistan for the first time since 2005, with the three-match clash starting on Thursday (December 1) and running through until December 21.
The first Test will be played at Rawalpindi (5am UK) before fixtures in Multan and Karachi.
It is a clash which counts to the current ICC World Test Championship cycle. England are seventh in the table and Pakistan fifth. Australia and South Africa are currently the top two teams and on course for next year’s final.
“We’re looking forward to it,” said Root. “It should be a great series.
“It’s obviously the first time we’ve been there and played Test cricket in a long while, so that should be a great opportunity for us to put in a performance away from home.
“Ultimately, as well, (it’s a chance) to pay a bit back to Pakistan – a nation who loves cricket. Hopefully we’ll go there and play a brilliant Test series.”
The late great Brian Close could over the next month lose his record as England’s youngest Test cricketer after Leicestershire’s leg-spinning all-rounder Rehan Ahmed was added to the squad for the series in Pakistan.
In July 1949, against New Zealand, Close debuted aged 18 years and 149 days.
Ahmed, as of today, is 18 years and 104 days.
Ahmed has impressed the selectors and coaches before and during the ongoing England Lions training camp in Abu Dhabi, which Matthew Fisher is a part of.
The fledgling leggie was part of the England Under 19s team that reached the World Cup final at the start of the year and has only played three first-class matches – all in this year’s LV= Insurance County Championship – taking one five-for and scoring a century.
He has played in all formats for his county, including making his List A debut in a Royal London Cup clash with Yorkshire at Grace Road in July of last year. That was the game in which Yorkshire chased down 328 thanks to Harry Duke’s excellent 125.
Derbyshire head of cricket Mickey Arthur says the county are more than happy to sacrifice a home game in next season’s Vitality Blast to be part of the competition’s curtain raiser at Edgbaston – entitled Blast Off – alongside Birmingham Bears, Yorkshire and Lancashire.
On Saturday May 20, the 21st season of the Blast will kick off with a televised double header in the second city, with the Vikings facing Birmingham and Derbyshire ‘hosting’ Lancashire.
It is the first time the Blast has started in this fashion, with the competition beginning and ending in front of the Sky Sports cameras at Edgbaston, who will also host Finals Day on July 15.
It means Derbyshire will only have six home T20 fixtures instead of seven, and one of those will be at Chesterfield.
It would be a major surprise if Yorkshire aren’t revealed as the visitors to Queen’s Park when the summer’s full fixture list is announced on November 30.
“It’s going to be a fantastic occasion,” Arthur said of the Blast Off day. We’re really happy to be part of it.
“We want our players to play on the big stage and play under pressure more often.
“I’m all for occasions like this. There will be a big crowd in, and I know this will make our players better and hopefully give us a little taste of what potentially Finals Day could be like down the line.”
Yorkshire’s last two North Group visits to face Birmingham at Edgbaston have resulted in a 10-wicket win apiece for the two counties, ours coming earlier this year.
Former England limited overs all-rounder Luke Wright has this week been appointed to the role of England men’s selector, a job he will begin in March.
Sussex’s Wright has thus retired from professional cricket and will start work with the ECB once he has completed a winter coaching role with New Zealand state side Auckland.
The 37-year-old will be responsible for squad and team selections for the senior teams, Lions and Young Lions.
It is a role which has been re-introduced by England men’s managing director of cricket Rob Key, having been made redundant by his predecessor Ashley Giles.
Key said: “With Luke’s significant experience of playing in England and overseas, as well as his in-depth knowledge of county cricket, he will be an important voice in squad selection while also helping to identify the next generation of England stars.”
This week’s announcement of England’s women’s squads for their limited overs tour of the West Indies next month brought plenty of cheer for the Northern Diamonds.
Opening batter Lauren Winfield-Hill has been rewarded for her outstanding summer with the Diamonds with a recall to the T20 squad, who will play a five-match series in Antigua and Barbados between December 11 and 22.
Katherine Brunt has also been selected in that squad, though she will miss the three-match ODI series beforehand as England continue to manage the seamer’s workloads.
She, like all-rounder Nat Sciver, opted to take a break from cricket during the summer. Sciver has been named in both squads.
The three ODIs will be played in Antigua between December 4-9, while the T20s will be played between December 11-22.
The tour will mark new coach Jon Lewis’s first in charge after the ex-international seamer was appointed as Lisa Keightley’s replacement at the weekend.
Captain Heather Knight also returns to both squads after hip surgery ruled her out of the second half of the summer.
Lewis said: “It’s great to have Heather, Nat and Katherine back in the group.
“The quality and experience they bring can only add huge value both on and off the field. We will manage Katherine back into competitive cricket with an eye on the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup in February.
“Equally, for Lauren, it’s pleasing to see a player go through a tough period and come back stronger, while demonstrating terrific form at domestic and franchise level.
“I have been particularly impressed with Lauren’s ability to put the bowlers under pressure and score at an impressive run-rate in the powerplay.”
The Abu Dhabi T10 League, which holds significant interest for Yorkshire supporters, has kicked off in the Arabian Desert.
Today will be day three of action, with four of the county’s players already having been in action; Adam Lyth, Dawid Malan, Jordan Thompson and new overseas recruit David Wiese.
Thompson produced the standout performance so far with 2-11 from two overs following 15 not out off six balls yesterday as his New York Strikers team beat Malan’s Chennai Braves by 27 runs defending a target of 100. They bounced back from an opening day defeat.
Only Adil Rashid is yet to get going, having missed Team Abu Dhabi’s opening day defeat on Wednesday. Ottis Gibson is their assistant coach for the near fortnight-long event.
They are in action today against Delhi Bulls (2.15pm UK).