Yorkshire’s Academy are set for an exciting second half of the summer as they chase success on two fronts.
The county’s up and comers have already qualified for T20 Finals Day on September 10 and are currently putting the finishing touches to their preparations for their regional Championship red ball campaign.
Alongside that, over the next fortnight, Yorkshire have significant representation in both the national Super Fours and Bunbury Festivals.
“It’s going really nicely at the moment,” said Academy head coach Tom Craddock.
“We played some really good stuff in the T20 competition, winning three of our five matches.
“Standouts would be Noah Kelly and Isaac Light, who batted really well.
“With the ball, everyone chipped in really. Harvey Round bowled with good pace, Josh Hoyle in the middle with his leg-spin. Josh Hen-Boisen with his left-arm spin.
“Jawad Akhtar as well. He’s very explosive towards the end of the innings. He can strike it well with the bat, and he usually contains in the middle but has picked up some wickets with his off-spin.
“We’re now well and truly in the red ball phase of the summer. We’re in our three weeks of warm-ups for the Under 18s County Championship, which starts next week.
“We’ve had an intra-squad game the week before last and then took a squad down to Hampshire. Now we’ve taken one down to Surrey this week.
“There’s not a lot of second-team cricket from now through August because of the senior One-Day Cup. That means we’ll play quite a strong side in the Championship with good availability.
“You’re always confident of success. It’s about managing their fitness because they’ve played a lot of cricket.
“It’s a shame there’s no final. It’s just a league and that’s it. Our aim is to come top of the North League.
“This week at Surrey gives us a real opportunity to take some younger lads, some Under 16s, down and expose them to what the life of a professional cricketer looks like.
“It’s a real good foundational learning for them to see what it looks like to play County Championship cricket, which is what they’ll be hoping to do in the future.”
Last week saw Yorkshire beaten by one-wicket in a thriller against Hampshire at Basingstoke. Chasing 202, the hosts were cruising at 200-5 before slipping to 201-9.
“Clearly we’d have wanted to win that game,” said Craddock. “But it was amazing nevertheless.
“When we looked at organising these trips down south, we wanted pitches a bit quicker and bouncier than traditional northern ones. We wanted to take them out of their comfort zone and put them up against players they’ve never seen before.
“Playing against Lancashire and Durham and teams such as that, you play them a lot through the age-groups and get to know who they are. That’s good because you get to work players out over a period of time. But playing against Hampshire and Surrey is a brand new problem.
“They had a couple of England Under 19s seamers bowling on a quick pitch.
“Will Bennison played nicely for 61 off 120-odd balls in the second innings, and he’s now got an opportunity to play for the second team this week. He isn’t one of those picked in the Super Fours, but he’s going to have an incredible experience anyway with the second team.
“The pleasing thing for me was the lads keep fighting and coming back. The game to’ed and fro’ed, but they never gave up.
“Joe Thompson got 81 in the first innings and decided to strike back when we were in a bit of trouble. I think we were 120-7. He tried to counter-attack and played nicely, getting us up near 200.
“With the ball, we kept chipping in with wickets.
“It was a really good test to see where they’re at and what they need to do.”
Just returning to the matter of T20 Finals Day for a second. Yorkshire’s final group game was on May 30, though Finals Day is on September 10 – nearly three-and-a-half months later.
According to Craddock, that has positives and negatives.
“It’s actually quite nice to have it at the end of the year because it gives the lads something to look forward to,” he said. “That’s the positive.
“But you could argue that the players who got you there may well be out of form by then.
“We’ll have an eight-week block of red ball cricket now and then five days to prepare for T20 Finals Day. That can be difficult. But it will be exciting.
“It will be quite interesting to see where we go selection wise because of that point on form, and also the other thing to consider is that some of the older lads might have already sorted out University by then.”
Yorkshire have a similar number of players involved in both the Super Fours festival at Loughborough this week and again for Bunbury – also at Loughborough – between July 30 and August 4.
The Super Fours includes the best Under 17s and 18s players across the counties, and they are split across four regions. Bunbury is similar for the Under 15s.
“We have six players involved in the Super Fours,” said Craddock. “The four players playing for the North are Noah Kelly, Harvey Round, Louie Owens and Jawad Akhtar.
“Josh Hoyle is playing for London and East and Isaac Light is playing for South and West.”
Is there any danger of the latter two returning to Headingley with southern accents?
Craddock joked: “Josh is at Drama School and is a very good actor. So it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear him mimicking a Southern accent when he returns.”
He added: “They’re exciting experiences for the lads and very exciting for us that we’ve got good representation. But they’re not the be all and end all. Someone like a Jimmy Anderson didn’t go to Bunbury, for example.
“It’s our job to help them understand that things like the Super Fours and Bunbury are brilliant opportunities to go and learn as much as you can in different environments.
“Ultimately, the most important thing is to come back and put performances in for Yorkshire. That’s what matters the most.”
Tomorrow, meanwhile, sees the North play the Midlands in a Bunbury warm-up game at Weetwood, and Yorkshire have seven players out of 14 in the North’s squad for that Festival.
Yorkshire’s players involved at Bunbury are Peter Greenfield, Abdullah Hussain, Rizwan Ishfaq, Monty Jackson, Daniel Longley, Aaron Ratnalingam and Aarush Shinde.
Andrew Flintoff’s son, Rocky, is also in the squad from Lancashire.
COVER PHOTO: Noah Kelly.