England cricket hopefuls Barbados-bound
London - Forget net sessions in cold indoor schools in Bradford or Bristol - some of England's most promising cricketers will instead prepare for the upcoming English season with a series of matches in Barbados starting later this week.
This will be the second edition of a one-day series that pits representative teams from northern and southern counties against each other, following the South's 3-0 series sweep in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last year.
The aim is to develop England's white-ball depth ahead of the country staging next year's 50-over World Cup.
But long-format county players will also be on show in Barbados with the first-class match between MCC and the champion county, once a staple of the Lord's fixture list, moving from its recent home in the UAE to the Kensington Oval.
As a result, Essex, the 2017 county champions, will also be heading to the Caribbean.
"We introduced the North-South Series last year as part of a concerted attempt to emphasise the importance of 50-over cricket in the countdown to staging the 2019 ICC World Cup," said England and Wales Cricket Board director of England cricket Andrew Strauss in a statement issued on Tuesday.
"The series was successful in a number of ways, allowing players to press their World Cup claims in front of the England selectors and management."
Two former England internationals in Paul Collingwood (North) and Mark Ramprakash (South), will coach the teams while England's head coach Trevor Bayliss and his deputy, Paul Farbrace, are on tour in New Zealand with the senior England squad.
"This year's series was always going to be a little different given the schedule of the England team which means Trevor Bayliss and Paul Farbrace are both in New Zealand," said Strauss, himself a former England captain.
"But the appointment of two members of the England coaching staff in Mark Ramprakash and Paul Collingwood to take charge of the teams underlines that the stakes will again be high for the players selected," added Strauss, who on Monday announced a shake-up that will see James Whitaker leave his role as England's head selector next month.