Joe Clarke is one of the most exciting batting talents in the English game and Nottinghamshire won the battle for his signature in 2018 after he left his boyhood county Worcestershire. Clarke, a stylish middle-order strokemaker, had made 12 Championship hundreds for Worcestershire by 22, at an average a fraction below 40, but his need was to kick on strongly to confirm himself as ready for international cricket.
Five Championship hundreds in his first full Worcestershire season in 2016 deepened the good impression he had made the previous summer and won him a third England Lions call-up at the tender age of 20. He finished the season with a flourish with a career-best 194 against Derbyshire, so neatly producing his highest scores in the first and last games of the season, and expressed the ambition to follow new caps such as Haseeb Hameed and Ben Duckett into the England side.
Although he proved himself a more than capable wicketkeeper at England U-19 level, and insisted at the end of the season that he remained committed to the role, the presence of Ben Cox at Worcestershire and the sense that the batsman-keeper role at England level had ample cover, plus his own burgeoning talents with the bat, led him to develop as a specialist batsman. Steve Rhodes, Worcestershire's director of cricket, credited him with a similar batting nous, and ability to work things out, as Joe Root and in English cricket in 2016 there was no higher praise than that.
Clarke is a confident individual and his competitive edge was also shown in a successful final-day run chase in a Championship match against Leicestershire when he was given out lbw on 31, controversially recalled by the square leg umpire Graham Lloyd on the grounds that he had heard him make contact with the bat and, amid a predictable sledging onslaught, returned to make a decisive 123.
He graduated through the age-groups to earn his first England Lions call-up for the 2015 series against Pakistan A in the UAE - the first teenaged Lions debutant since Root. Having started his cricket life in Shropshire, he joined the Worcestershire academy where he soon moved into the England Under-19 set-up. He took part in the 2014 U-19 World Cup and in the 2014-15 winter played club cricket for South Perth then on his return was prolific for Worcestershire 2nd XI, which earned him a first-team chance. He scored a maiden List A hundred - an unbeaten 131 - against Gloucestershire and then his maiden first-class hundred against Sussex in the space of a month, both while still a teenager.