England U-19s learn hard lessons from Sri Lanka

England U19 v Sri Lanka U19: Royal London One-Day SeriesEngland’s latest crop of Under-19s returned to their counties this week, in many cases to A-level results, having benefited hugely from a cricketing lesson from Sri Lanka.

Andy Hurry, the head coach of the England Development Programme, acknowledged that a 3-0 whitewash in the Royal London One-Day Series, which followed defeat in the second four-day match between the teams, was a disappointing outcome.

But perhaps it should not have been too surprising, given England’s decision to allow more than a dozen eligible players to gain further senior experience with their counties rather than taking part in the series – an impressive list including Dan Lawrence of Essex, Durham’s Jack Burnham, and three bowlers who were fast-tracked into the England Lions set-up this summer in George Garton, Saqib Mahmood and Sam Curran.

More importantly, Hurry has no doubts that the 20 teenagers who have been involved in the England set-up over the last month will be far better for the experience.

“The lads have all had their eyes opened a bit by the standard of opposition they faced from a much more experienced Sri Lankan team, who showed great skill with bat and ball,” he said. “Hats off to them for the way they played in our backyard. It’s a different challenge from anything you’re going to get in the domestic game, and I know our players will all benefit from that.”

Ollie Pope and George Hankins, who led England’s valiant attempt to avoid a whitewash in front of the Sky Sports cameras in Canterbury on Tuesday night, confirmed that.

“It was a completely different experience, just looking up at the big screen, and knowing a lot of people will be watching that,” said Pope, the Surrey wicketkeeper-batsman, after his first televised game.

“I’ve had a good time with the gloves, working with Bruce French which has been really good. The Sri Lanka bowlers are very different to what we face in county cricket – rather than swing bowlers they look to get it reversing very early. And there’s a different atmosphere out there when you come in, you can’t even hear yourself think sometimes.”

Hankins, who was voted England’s man of the Royal London series by Sri Lanka after scores of 98 and 79 in the last two games, added: “It’s been a different challenge to anything I’ve had before, and I’ve enjoyed it. It’s definitely different, with a lot of spin to face, learning how to play different bowlers in different conditions. It was nice to get a few runs in the ODI series but a lot of lessons learned definitely.”

Hankins, one of three Millfield School old boys in the England squad with George Bartlett and Tom Moores, has already played six first-class matches for Gloucestershire this season, and hopes to add to that experience over the next few weeks.

“George has played a lot of first-class cricket for Gloucestershire this year, so he put a wealth of experience into this Under-19 series,” added Hurry. “He was disappointed not to kick on after making a start in the first four-day match, and not really making his mark on that series. But he’s definitely left a mark on the one-day series. What’s really encouraging to me is the way he managed his innings – he looks to accumulate runs, with good attacking intent and strong positive shots, but in a sensible way.”

Hurry also praised Max Holden, the Middlesex opener who led England throughout the two series and joined a select band by carrying his bat for 111 in a total of 208 in the second four-day game in Northampton.

“That was a real stand-out performance, because when everyone else was falling down around him he showed great resilience when the opposition were coming at him hard,” said the head coach. “Max has done well as captain as well, in terms of his awareness of the game situation and also communicating with the other players. Again, it’s been a great experience for him.”

But there was sadness as well as disappointment at the end of the series, as it also marked the departures of four members of the England Development Programme staff – assistant coach Iain Brunschweiler, analyst Mike Mustoe, strength and conditioning coach Rob Ahmun and Tim Boon, the batting coach whose lengthy involvement with English cricket included a role alongside Duncan Fletcher during the 2005 Ashes.

“All of them have been outstanding to work with, and given so much to so many young players,” said Andy Hurry, the head coach of the EDP. “It has been a pleasure and privilege to work with them.”

As for their A Level results? Somerset all rounder Ben Green impressed with two As and a B, despite missing more than seven weeks of school, while Pope was very happy to record one A, one B and one C. (Courtesy ECB)

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