Andrew Strauss has stressed to the 26 players – including Worcestershire's Joe Clarke – selected for the new North-South Series that begins in Dubai tomorrow (Friday) that they have the perfect platform to stake a claim for a place in the 2019 World Cup.
Twenty-year-old Clarke is part of the North squad for the three game 50 over series.
Strauss has been the driving force behind the revival of cricket’s North-South rivalry – which dates back to 1836 – in his role as Director, England Cricket.
He addressed the players before the start of the series, underlining the history of that rivalry – and also the reasons it has now been revived.
Strauss said: “Staging the 2019 ICC World Cup offers a huge opportunity to all of us involved in cricket in England and Wales.
“The North-South Series has been set up specifically with that World Cup in mind. “Being blunt, our history at previous World Cups is awful. So it’s pretty safe to assume that if we do the same things we’ve done ahead of previous tournaments, we should expect similar results.
“The North-South Series is an example of our determination to leave no stone unturned over the next three years in our preparations for the 2019 competition – and to change the perception of 50-over cricket domestically.
“It gives a wider group of players the chance to impress – in front of all three England selectors, the England coach Trevor Bayliss, and two of his assistants, Paul Farbrace and Ottis Gibson, who are coaching the teams.
“Eight of those players earned their places through their performances in the Royal London One-Day Cup in 2016, reflected by the PCA’s MVP Rankings – which is another part of the process of changing the perception of 50-over cricket domestically.
“But the key to the success of the North-South Series will be the competition on the field.
"The players know that in the more immediate future than the World Cup, we are hosting the ICC Champions Trophy this summer, and this is obviously the ideal stage to stake a late claim for that – which adds an extra edge to the North-South rivalry, which is one of the oldest in cricket, even if it has been dormant for a while.
"We need a genuine competitive edge to the matches, and on the evidence out here in Dubai so far, I’m confident we will see that.”
The first two games of the series will be played at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, with a 10am start on Friday March 17, and a day-night match on Sunday March 19 starting at 2pm.
The North-South Series will then conclude at the Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi next Tuesday, March 21, again with a 10am start.
Both teams won a warm-up game at the ICC Academy in Dubai on Wednesday – South captain James Vince scoring a century against the UAE, and Ben Duckett passing three figures for the North against Worcestershire.
North: K Jennings (Durham, capt), B Duckett (Northamptonshire*), S Hain (Warwickshire), J Leaning (Yorkshire), L Livingstone (Lancashire), J Clarke (Worcestershire, wk), T Bresnan (Yorkshire*), P Coughlin (Durham), M Wood (Durham), H Gurney (Nottinghamshire*), S Mahmood (Lancashire), G White (Northamptonshire*), J Poysden (Warwickshire).
South: J Vince (Hampshire, capt), D Malan (Middlesex), D Bell-Drummond (Kent), S Northeast (Kent), T Alsop (Hampshire), L Dawson (Hampshire*), B Foakes (Surrey, wk), T Curran (Surrey), T Roland-Jones (Middlesex), S Finn (Middlesex), L Gregory (Somerset*), T Groenewald (Somerset*), M Crane (Hampshire).
* – qualified through PCA MVP Rankings for 2016 Royal London One-Day Cup