England head coach Jon Lewis has challenged his Under-19s players to learn lessons from their 2-0 defeat by South Africa in the Royal London One-Day Series which ended with a washout in Scarborough today – and especially to improve their fielding.
Lewis highlighted Jonathan Bird, the 17-year-old opener who was named Man of the Series after scoring 193 runs from his two innings, as the outstanding individual performer.
But the former England seamer, who was appointed head coach of the ECB’s Young Lions programme earlier this year, stressed that there was also a collective difference between the teams.
“There are always lessons to learn at every level, but especially at this one, whether you’ve won as we did in the Test series, or you’ve been beaten as we have in the one-dayers,” said Lewis.
“And over these two white-ball games, I’d say we’ve been outplayed – especially in the fielding, where they were outstanding.
“That will have been an important lesson for our guys to take back to their counties. They will all understand now that’s an area of development they’ve got to concentrate on. Cricket’s not all about hitting balls and bowling balls, it’s a team game and fielding is a huge part of it.
“The guys have done some work with our national fielding lead Carl Hopkinson over the last month or so, but Carl shares my concern about the levels with this group in particular.
“It doesn’t mean country-wide it’s an issue, but the difference in the fielding standards in the white-ball cricket was marked, which is a concern for me.
“The other area where they were better than us was in the powerplays, with bat and ball. In Bird, they had one player who stood out as a very powerful top-order batter. With the guys that we have available, we didn’t have that in our side.”
However, Lewis still took plenty of encouragement from the bowling performances of the Nottinghamshire pair Nick Kimber and Jordan Cook, plus a number of other 17-year-olds in this England squad – and he also praised the performances of captain Tom Banton and Kent’s Ollie Robinson.
Cook was named England’s Man of the Series by the South Africa coaching staff after claiming four for 30 in the opening match at the Emirates Riverside, and also bowling tidily last Thursday at South Northumberland CC, and Lewis said: “Jordan has come in new to the one-day squad after taking seven wickets for the Invitational XI against the South Africans in their warm-up game. He’s got a lovely range of pace, and he controls it really well. I’ve been really impressed with how he’s coped, firstly coming into the squad and then delivering his skills. He looks a nice young cricketer.
“Tom Banton hasn’t scored the runs he’d have wanted to in the one-day games but he showed his ability in the Tests, and Ollie Robinson has impressed me with the way he’s grown and learned over the course of the series. He looks hungry to learn and to get better.
“We had two 17-year-olds opening the batting in Jack Haynes and Ben Charlesworth, and a 17-year-old leg-spinner in Luke Hollman, plus a young fast bowler in Nick Kimber who impressed in the televised game, and bowled pretty quick. So in terms of the future that’s good.”
Lewis and the other Under-19 selectors had considered a number of factors in the squads selected throughout this summer, allowing eligible players such as Yorkshire’s Harry Brook and Worcestershire’s Dillon Pennington the chance to continue gaining first-team experience with their counties, and introducing younger replacements who will be available for the next ICC Under-19s World Cup in South Africa in early 2020 – such as Haynes, Charlesworth, Kimber and Hollman.
The planning for that competition will now continue with the ECB Super-4s competition for the best Under-17s in the country at Loughborough at the end of August – when the Midlands will be defending their title.
“That will be my first opportunity to get a really good look over the course of a week at the best 40-odd players at that level,” Lewis explained.
“It’s really important to be able to identify as early as possible guys at that age, because they’re going to form the next World Cup squad for South Africa in early 2020.