Nottinghamshire’s Steven Mullaney has been chosen to captain the North in the 2018 season curtain-raising series against the South, to be played in Barbados between 18 and 23 March.
The newly-installed Notts skipper will lead the side in three 50-over matches that feature some of 2017’s best performers and most promising up and coming talent.
Among the players at his disposal will be fellow Notts player and all-rounder Paul Coughlin, while he will work closely with Assistant Head Coach at Trent Bridge, Paul Franks, who has been named the North’s Assistant Coach under Paul Collingwood.
The matches have been moved from the Middle East, with Abu Dhabi and Dubai staging the fixtures in 2017. The South beat the North 3-0 in the inaugural series last year.
“I’m delighted that my performances over last season in the white ball competitions have been recognised and to be asked to be captain is something I really didn’t expect,” said Mullaney, 31.
“I was at the gym on Friday when (Notts’ Director of Cricket) Mick Newell called me to see if I would be interested in the role, and I told him that of course I would.
“Keaton Jennings will have been captaining the Lions in the West Indies and I thought he would be the automatic choice, but he is to concentrate on his batting in this series.
“Doing this is not only a massive honour, meaning I was delighted when National Selector James Whitaker confirmed I was to captain, but it also gives me a good chance to practise captaining in 50-over games before I do so for Notts in the summer."
The North squad are to fly out on 11 March, with the first two games of the North-South series held at the Kensington Oval on 18 and 21 March, while the final match is at the Three Ws Oval on 23 March.
The Kensington Oval will also host the day-night fixture between the MCC and 2017 champions Essex between 27 and 30 March.
As well as honing his captaincy skills, Mullaney is hoping to use the North-South series to push himself into the national spotlight.
He said: “It’s an opportunity to showcase what I can do on a bigger stage and there are England selectors there.
“I would love to play for England, if I was ever asked. The Test side is very good – they’ve just come up against some people on top of their game in Australia – but the white ball side is amazing.
“The white ball side has been settled for a little while now and it goes in four year cycles where they’re looking forward to a World Cup (the latest in England next year).
“But if I did well and there was an opportunity to play for England I would love to, but we will just see how this tour goes.”
Coughlin will have already tasted action this year in the West Indies by the time he plays as he has been selected for England Lions that is touring the region in February and March.
The former Durham man hopes to use the North-South series to further enhance his reputation and push for an England place.
“It’s great to get some high quality cricket in before the start of the season, so that I can hit the ground running when we start with Notts,” said Coughlin.
“It’s a massive opportunity to take part in matches that are going to be watched by the national selectors, and there is no better way to get noticed."
“It’s great to have Mull and Fransky involved and will give me a chance to get to know them better because, with being away on the two Lions tours over the winter, I won’t have spent too much time at Trent Bridge.”
Mansfield-born Franks retired from first-class cricket in 2015 having made his debut for his home county in 1996 and playing 449 matches for the Club across all formats.
The 38-year-old was part of the Trent Bridge coaching team last season as Notts won both one-day white ball trophies – the Royal London One-Day Cup and the T20 Blast – and also clinched promotion back to Division One of the Specsavers County Championship.
Franks said: “It’s something I am really looking forward to. It was a series that was reignited last year to try to create some squad depth for the England World Cup campaign moving forward.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for those players who are making their way and some fringe players who are on the radar to get that opportunity."
“It’s going to be quite a competitive series. The south won quite convincingly last year, but I’m sure the North squad this year will want to bounce back and put a mark on it!”
Full North and South squads
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).
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