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Kent coach Matt Walker says Sam Northeast and Joe Denly deserved England chance

By Alex Hoad

Coach Matt Walker said he is gobsmacked and heartbroken that Kent skipper Sam Northeast has again been overlooked by national selectors.

After a third straight 1,000-run Championship campaign, the clamour for an England call-up for the 27-year-old has grown.

However, he was overlooked for a place on the plane for the Ashes tour to Australia while even more surprising was his omission from the Lions squad which will also be heading Down Under.

Sam Northeast. Picture: Gary Browne
Sam Northeast. Picture: Gary Browne

Joe Denly also missed out despite only Surrey’s Kumar Sangakkara scoring more runs than him across all formats this season.

Walker – who will be part of England’s coaching team for February’s T20 Tri-series against Australia and New Zealand – said: “It is incredibly frustrating and I do not understand the reasoning. I’m going to try hard for an answer.

“I don’t know why Sam is not involved in at least the Lions squad – although I and many others would argue he should be even higher. I was gobsmacked.

“He scores huge runs every year and you can compare him favourably to players who have been given the chance for England and the Lions. He’ll be frustrated by it, he deserves his chance.”

Many have speculated that playing for an ‘unfashionable’ club in Division 2 has hampered Northeast’s chances and Walker said: “There’s possibly something in that – it might be a factor, although I don’t know.

“Perhaps, they think players have to be playing in Division 1 as it’s a better level but Essex have blown that apart (by winning Division 2 and Division 1 in successive seasons).

“If that is it then I think it’s a lame excuse. The attacks in Division 2 are good – Durham, Sussex and Notts are among the best in the country.

“Maybe not everyone looks at Division 2 cricket. I don’t really know what they are seeing or not seeing in Sam. I’m not sure if it’s that his face doesn’t fit.

“I am left scratching my head and I have no answers.”

Sam Northeast. Picture: Chris Davey.
Sam Northeast. Picture: Chris Davey.

Walker added: “It is heartbreaking for me to see players like Sam and Joe Denly miss out. I know how hard they have worked and feel they deserved the opportunity to play for their country.

“Joe has fulfilled his potential this season when you see what he’s done in white ball and championship cricket. It’s not just the runs, it’s the manner in which he has got them.”

Walker is set to miss Kent’s return to Antigua for the regional 50-over competition after accepting an invitation to join England’s coaching staff in Oz.

He said: “I have gone 360 on it. The opportunity originally came up quickly and the timing didn’t feel right at the time, with our trip to Antigua.

“However, after time to think on it, it’s too good an opportunity to turn down.

“I’ll be around for a lot of hard work with Kent before the trip and when we’re out there, mainly playing games, I have full faith in the management team to have everything under control.

“Allan Donald will be there and Min Patel, the CEO (Jamie Clifford) goes out and we have senior players like Darren Stevens, James Tredwell and Joe Denly who you can rely on. They’ll be fine without me.”

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