Cook and Bopara earn invitations to play in 2018 North-South Series

Ravi reversing 

Alastair Cook has earned an invitation to play in the 2018 North-South Series after his key role in Essex Eagles’ progress to the semi finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup.

The former England captain has scored 503 runs in eight innings at an average of more than 70 as Essex topped the South Group, leaving him third in the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s MVP Rankings – behind Glamorgan’s South African opener Colin Ingram, and young Derbyshire all-rounder Shiv Thakor.

The top four England-qualified players in the rankings from both the North and South groups will be offered places in the North-South Series, which will again be watched closely by the England selectors and management in their planning for the 2019 ICC World Cup.

So while Thakor is set for a place in the North squad who will aim to take revenge for the 3-0 whitewash inflicted by the South in the first series in the UAE earlier this year, Cook will be invited to lend his considerable experience to the South – although his availability remains uncertain, as the dates and venues of the 2018 series have still to be finalised.

Hampshire captain James Vince, who led the South to their 2017 triumph, has qualified automatically this year, and the other two invitations have been earned by Kent’s England Lions opener Daniel Bell-Drummond, and Cook’s Essex and former England team-mate Ravi Bopara.

Keaton Jennings, Sam Hain and Gary Ballance are in the frame to join Thakor in the North squad – again, providing there are no clashes with any England commitments.

The 13-man North and South squads will be finalised by the England selectors at the end of the season, with dates and venues to be confirmed soon.