IT has been said for many years that James Hildreth is the best uncapped English player in county cricket,.

His record speaks for itself - 45 First Class centuries, an average of 43.81, a best of 303 not out and, in recent years, hundreds on surfaces decried as ‘minefields’ by opponents lacking Hildreth’s nous.

Now aged 34, the batsman is set to start this season in an unfamiliar role at number three to, in his words, give him “one last shot” at earning that overdue Test call-up.

“I have batted at four and done alright,” Hildreth says with more than a hint of understatement, “so if I bat at three and do alright will that make any difference?

“I have had no conversations with them [England selectors] - I’ve never had any really - but I am in a no-lose situation. If I do well then Somerset do well, and if I don’t then I can always slip back to four.

“I have always felt I could make a difference at that level, I’ve been getting the runs compared to other guys.

“I don’t know if it is a statement, it is just one of those things – Somerset needed a three and if I do well then who knows?”

Hildreth is not the only England hopeful to have changed his role with one eye on the Ashes - James Vince has been opening for Hampshire in pre-season with roles in the top order up for grabs.

“Vince has had chats with selectors and they are looking at various other guys, like Jason Roy, who they like the look of in white ball cricket and think can adapt,” Hildreth said.

“I am way down the pecking order but I thought at my age it [moving to three] would be something worth considering.”

The early signs are promising, with an unbeaten 158 against Cardiff MCCU and 59 against Middlesex at Taunton Vale last weekend.

“It won’t be hugely different as I’ve often been in fairly early anyway,” Hildreth said.

“In fact, I probably prefer it as it means I’ve got the pads on straight away and the opportunity to get in earlier, which I quite like.”

Hildreth’s move up the order also has the potential to give Somerset’s younger batsmen the chance to bed in lower down as they look to find the consistency to succeed in Championship cricket.

“It worked in the [Cardiff] Uni game with Eddie Byrom getting a hundred at six,” Hildreth said.

“Allowing them to come in later might give them the opportunity to ease themselves in and free themselves up rather than exposing them straight away.

“The next step will be getting those younger guys to contribute consistently, getting towards those 1,000-run marks and not relying on anyone for runs.

“We need to keep people fit and have a consistent selection for most of the year, especially in Championship cricket.

“If we can do that, there is no reason we can’t be up there.”

With 10 Championship matches before the first Ashes Test, if Hildreth can lead that charge he could yet find himself fulfilling that England dream.