Regional pride and the prospect of higher honours will be at stake when some of the most promising young male cricketers in New South Wales compete for the Under 16 State Challenge at Raby Sports Complex in April.

The competition will be held from 15-19 April and involves four teams representing the best of both metropolitan and country NSW.

It will also form the basis of selection for the Under 17 National Championships later in the year, according to Metropolitan Talent and Coaching Manager for Cricket NSW, Gavan Twining.

“The selectors have been able to pick a balanced group of players,” said Twining.

“(Some) have been in the academy programs for many seasons; others (who) have warranted selection through outstanding performances during the Green Shield and Bradman Cup competitions played in the Christmas holidays; while a few are returning from the U17 squads in 2017/18.”

Among some of the next generation of talented cricketers selected to play in the tournament include Blacktown opener Yuvraj Sharma, prodigious young Bankstown batsman Zeeshaan Ahmed and ACT/NSW Country cricketers Dominic O’Shannessy and Broc Hardy, who all participated in the Under 17 National Championships held in Brisbane during September.   

Each of the teams will be based on the two Sydney Big Bash League franchises with a team from both the city and the country representing the Sydney Sixers and Thunder.

Sharma was selected in the Metro Sixers squad, while Ahmed will represent Metro Thunder. Both O’Shannessy and Hardy were selected for the Country Sixers.

Twining said Sharma, in particular, played a very important role as an opening batsman for NSW Metro in their title-winning run at the Under 17 Championships.

NSW Metro went undefeated through the competition, and while Sharma wasn’t one of the leading run-scorers, the manner in which his 180 runs from eight innings were compiled was very valuable.

“He led the way, as a younger player in the team, setting a strong platform up front and established some strong partnerships, at difficult times, which set up victory for the team,” said Twining.

O’Shannessy was the leading wicket taker at the 2017 Under 17 Championships. He claimed 16 scalps at an average of 13.63 for ACT/NSW Country including 4-41 against the champions in the quarter final.

Country Talent and Coaching Manager for Cricket NSW, Mark Cameron, said the State Challenge will be another important learning curve for the young fast bowler and he was one of many up-and-coming prospects selected.  

“We’re very excited to see how this year’s intake of talented players handle playing against the best competition within NSW as a stepping stone to representing the ACT and NSW Country during next seasons Under 17 National Championships.”

ACT/NSW Country team mate and all-rounder Broc Hardy scored 135 runs at 27.00 and collected 10 wickets at 27.3 in those Championships.

Ahmed was the leading run-scorer in the 2017-18 Under 16 AW Green Shield which is considered by many as the best under age competition anywhere in the country.

He amassed 345 runs at 57.5 with a highest score of 154 not out against Blacktown.

Other notable performers during the Green Shield selected for the State Challenge include second leading run-scorer, and Parramatta captain in that competition, Harrison King (Metro Thunder).

King scored 341 runs at 42.63 with a top score of 66 not out and trailed Ahmed by just four runs.

Alexander Deller and Lachlan Molyneux, both selected for the Metro Sixers, were top of the list in terms of leading wicket takers in the Green Shield with 17 scalps each.

Bowlers Jack Heuston (Country Sixers) and Caelan Maladay (Country Thunder), in addition to batsman Cooper Lennox (Country Sixers) from Newcastle, were among some of the best performers with bat and ball in the 2017-18 edition of the prestigious Bradman Cup showcasing the elite Under 16 cricketers from Country NSW and the ACT. 

Heuston and Maladay were equal leading wicket takers with nine wickets each. Lennox scored the second most runs for the competition behind Brock Larance from Western Zone. He scored 142 runs at 47.33.

Tom Greig, the son of former England captain and Channel Nine commentator, the late Tony Greig, was also selected in the Metro Thunder squad.

The North Coast of New South Wales was the strongest represented region in terms of Country players selected for the State Challenge. Eight players hailed from that region in both teams.

Green Shield champions Parramatta had the most players named of any of the metropolitan squads. Four players were picked for Metro Thunder.