John Crawley, if he plays against New Zealand this summer, will have made the grade in three seasons but many of his team-mates will be dreaming more of a regular county place than a Test cap.
There are a number of reasons for this, notably the reluctance to promote youth, but lack of talent is not among them: West Indies were beaten, Australia and Pakistan held. One reason was evident, however, as the Under-19s yesterday met Middlesex, last year's Second XI champions, in the annual Rapid Cricketline Challenge.
Having lost Lancashire's Nathan Wood, son of Barry, third ball after electing to bat, England looked set for a commanding score as they raced to 136 for 1 at five an over. Such a scoring rate, outrageous in a four-day match, is rarely achieved without risks and eventually too many were taken. The innings subsided to 235 for 8, although good late-order batting lifted them to 318.
It was still short of expectations on an excellent wicket and the culprits were the two leading batsmen, Somerset's elegant Marcus Trescothick and Yorkshire's Chris Schofield. Both showed considerable style and ability but failed to go from half-century to century, a fault, their coach Graham Saville said, common to young England players. 'We are developing players who play shots but do not build innings,' he said.
'They just smack fours. If Damien Martyn had been out in that situation he'd have hung himself. Our lads are disappointed but will still feel they have made a few runs. I tell them they should look to bat all day but you have to drum it into them over and over again. Last year it was clear Chanderpaul just loved batting and he would go on and on.'
Ian Gould, the former Sussex wicketkeeper now playing the Second XI captain's role of protector, guide and whip-cracker for Middlesex, agreed. But his team were not tardy when they batted, cutting the deficit to 237 for the loss of Jason Harrison leg before to the well-regarded Sussex seamer, Danny Law.
This is the fifth such fixture and both sides were keen to treat it properly despite being under-strength. England were without their captain, Michael Vaughan, and Darren Thomas, both touring with their counties, as well as Worcestershire's Philip Weston (at university), the injured Durham bowler Melvyn Betts and Middlesex's Richard Johnson, who is playing against England A tomorrow.
That fixture, along with injuries to John Emburey and Chas Taylor and the presence of four players in the Caribbean, reduced Middlesex to five contracted players and Gould. In came four debutants including the 15-year-old schoolboy Owais Shah and fast bowler Kervin Marc. Shaven-headed and 6ft 4in, Marc looked menacing enough to send the average teenager scuttling towards square-leg. Though England's lads were made of sterner stuff, Wood and Schofield both trod on their stumps against him while Alex Morris was leg before to his inswinger.
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