Alastair Cook’s impressive form in the Royal London Cup has earned him an automatic spot in next year’s North v South one-day series.
Cook, who was sacked as England’s one-day captain shortly before the 2015 World Cup, scored 503 runs in Essex’s group stage campaign, from which they secured a home semi-final. That tally put him third in the PCA’s MVP rankings, thereby qualifying him for the pre-season series. Only England-qualified players are eligible to play for the North and South with four spots in each side determined by the MVP rankings. The rest of the names are decided by the England selectors.
The matches are billed as a chance to push for England selection with the PCA release saying they will be “watched closely by the England selectors and management in their planning for the 2019 ICC World Cup.” But while Cook has never officially retired from ODIs, it would be far-fetched to suggest he will come into the reckoning.
It is also possible that the North v South contests – which this year were held in the UAE in late March – will clash with England’s Test series in New Zealand, set for the end of March. Although Cook stepped down as Test captain in January, barring an unlikely sequence of events or injury he will be involved in those Tests which follow the Ashes in Australia.
The other players to qualify through the MVP rankings for the South are Hampshire’s James Vince, Kent opener Daniel Bell-Drummond and Essex allrounder Ravi Bopara.
The North are set to include Test batsman Keaton Jennings, Sam Hain from Warwickshire, Yorkshire captain Gary Ballance and Derbyshire allrounder Shiv Thakor. However, as with Cook, England commitments could impact the availability of Jennings and Ballance.
Jennings, Hain, Bell-Drummond and Vince were involved in the first North-South series. Batsmen have dominated those qualifying automatically from this year’s group stage in what has been a high-scoring competition. Last year, seam bowlers Matt Coles, Tim Groenewald and Harry Gurney earned automatic selection alongside left-arm spinner Graeme White and allrounders Tim Bresnan, Lewis Gregory and Liam Dawson.