Worcestershire are likely to play in the United Arab Emirates next year in an attempt to improve their early-season form.
The county, having developed a reputation as slow starters, are keen to hit the ground running in future seasons. The plan is to take part in an inter-county tournament in Dubai Sports City in March 2009. Lancashire, Essex, Somerset, Yorkshire and Sussex are about to embark on a similar event in the UAE next month.
The attraction of pre-season tours is obvious but, until recently, there have been substantial counter arguments. However, the ability of the Dubai organisers to prepare pitches which are supposedly identical to those in county cricket is a major step forward. Local sponsors are also likely to help meet the hefty costs of such a trip.
Worcestershire have invited fast bowler Chris Russell for an extended trial. The tall 19-year-old from the Isle of Wight generates steep bounce and sharp pace from a smooth action and is in talks with Wolverhampton CC with a view to playing in the Birmingham League.
Worcestershire appear to be developing an impressive battery of young fast bowlers. Mehraj Ahmed (from Birmingham) will hurry a few batsmen while Kemar Roach, the 19-year-old fast bowler from Barbados who will be playing for Ombersley this summer, is rated by Steve Rhodes, the Worcestershire coach, as being as fast as anyone on the island. Bearing in mind that Tino Best and Fidel Edwards are both Bajan, that's quite a statement.
None, however, would appear to be quite as quick as little-known Stuart Meaker, a 19-year-old whose bowling has recently been timed at 98mph the fastest speed recorded by an English bowler at nets in Loughborough.
South African-born Meaker, who is with Surrey, replaced Warwickshire's Chris Woakes in yesterday's England Under-19 World Cup side and took two cheap wickets in a ten-wicket win over Bermuda in Kuala Lumpur but is being kept under wraps by England and Wales Cricket Board coaches who want him to develop without undue media intrusion. The news that Kevin Shine is working with Meaker to 'improve' his action should set alarm bells ringing, however.
Moeen Ali, England captain at the last Under-19 World Cup, has scored three centuries in four innings for South Africa club side St Augustine's, the second 50 of his latest hundred taking only 12 deliveries, and taken seven-wicket and four-wicket hauls with his off-spin. n Worcestershire have announced provisional results of £150,000 for Vikram Solanki's benefit season. Due to the flooding, however, Solanki still has a few functions left.