Published: 00:00, 09 March 2017
Skipper Sam Northeast says working with England coaches and competing with international players will help him get ready to fire for Kent this summer.
Kent’s pre-season preparations begin in earnest on Monday – although Northeast will miss much of the build-up due to representative commitments in the Middle East.
After back-to-back 2,000-run seasons, the 27-year-old was surprisingly overlooked for international honours this winter, however he flies to the UAE this weekend for the inaugural North v South series between the best players outside the England squad.
The three 50-over match series is designed to give players the chance to stake a late claim for an England call-up ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy on home soil this summer.
Northeast’s South squad – from which county team-mate Matt Coles has had to withdraw due to a toe injury, but in which Daniel Bell-Drummond remains – is coached by former Kent coach and current England assistant Paul Farbrace.
Northeast said: “I’m looking forward to it. Working with the England coaches and some high quality cricketers will be competitive and good preparation for the county season.”
The first two games take place in Dubai on March 17 and 19, while the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi is the venue for the third match, on March 21.
Northeast will then go on to skipper an Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) side in the 2017 Champion County match against Middlesex at the same ground five days later.
The annual four-day curtain-raiser for the English county season will be played with a pink ball in day/night conditions.
The Kent skipper won't however be back in time for the First Class warm-up against Leeds/Bradford MCCU on March 28 as Kent seek to hit the ground running in red-ball cricket.
Northeast echoed new coach Matt Walker by claiming Championship promotion is Kent’s No.1 priority this summer and said: “The squad is in a good place and we can compete in all three formats.
“It might be unrealistic to win everything as teams strengthen their squads each year but promotion in the Specsavers County Championship has to be our aim.
“We batted much better last year. The biggest difference was the rule offering the visiting captain the chance to bowl first.
“In Division 2, we needed something to encourage better wickets as teams were regularly getting bowled out for less than 200 and it also helps to bring more spinners into the game.”