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Cook earns invitation for North-South Series

Alastair Cook has earned an invitation to play in the 2018 North-South Series after his key role in Essex Eagles’ progress to the semi-finals of the Royal London One-Day Cup.

The former England captain scored 503 runs in eight innings at an average of more than 70 as Essex topped the South Group, leaving him third in the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s Most Valuable Player Rankings – behind Glamorgan’s South African opener Colin Ingram, and young Derbyshire all-rounder Shiv Thakor.

Cook, who made the last of his 92 One Day International appearances in December 2014, made a century, his first in List A cricket for five years, against Gloucestershire and followed up with another against Sussex.

Those innings earned Cook 29 and 25 PCA MVP points respectively and he ended Essex's group campaign with three successive half centuries to finish with 108 points, two behind Thakor.

The PCA MVP Rankings system identifies the match-winners and key influencers of matches throughout the domestic season.

The formula takes into account conditions, quality of opposition, captaincy and strike-rates as well as runs scored and wickets taken.

Once again the PCA MVP Rankings have been used to determine four places in each of the squads for the North-South series.

The top four England-qualified players in the rankings at the end of the group stage of the RLODC, which was completed yesterday, from both the North and South groups will now be offered places in next year’s North-South Series. The North-South matches will again be watched closely by the England selectors and management in their planning for the 2019 ICC World Cup.

While Thakor is set for a place in the North squad, Cook will be invited to lend his considerable experience to the South – although his availability remains uncertain, as the dates and venues of the 2018 series have still to be finalised.

Hampshire captain James Vince, who led the South to their 3-0 triumph in March, has qualified automatically along with Kent’s England Lions opener Daniel Bell-Drummond, and Cook’s Essex and former England team-mate Ravi Bopara.

Vince made 178, Hampshire's record List A score, against Glamorgan last week plus three half centuries.

His century was not enough to save Hampshire from defeat, with Ingram making the second of his three RLODC centuries this season, but it secured Vince's place in the top 10 of individual performances in 50 overs cricket since the rankings were introduced in 2007.

Vince earned 43 PCA MVP points against Glamorgan which put him eighth in the all-time performance table.

Jonny Bairstow has the highest RLODC match haul of the season and the second-best of all-time with 48 points for Yorkshire against Durham which included his List A-best 174.

Bell-Drummond's RLODC campaign included successive centuries against Somerset and Sussex and 90 against Gloucestershire.

Bopara earned 52 batting and 32 bowling points to help Essex reach the semi-finals. Only Somerset's Peter Trego (595) and Nottinghamshire's Samit Patel (582) have earned more than Bopara's 546 in 50 overs cricket in the PCA MVP.

Keaton Jennings, Sam Hain and Gary Ballance are in the frame to join Thakor in the North squad – again, providing there are no clashes with any England commitments.

The 13-man North and South squads will be finalised by the England selectors at the end of the season, with dates and venues to be confirmed soon.

The PCA MVP Rankings for the Royal London One Day Cup can be viewed here.