Tom Craddock, Yorkshire’s lead Academy coach, believes the number of young players who have gained opportunities at the level above this summer has been the standout feature of 2024 so far.

The former county leg-spinner says 12 players across the Academy and Emerging Players Programme – eight and four respectively – have played second-team cricket for the county already this season, with the promise of more to come between now and September.

As Craddock discussed the summer so far, looking back through the fixture list, it told a story that he said, ‘That was called off, that was called off, we were rained off there as well, and there”.

“It’s madness that we’re almost halfway through the summer,” he smiled. “I’d imagine a lot of players and coaches will be thinking that we haven’t really got going yet.

“But there’s been some really exciting stuff happening, and that will continue through to the end of the season.”

One of the Academy’s next challenges is the Under 18s County One-Day Cup competition, played in a knockout format. If you lose in round one, you’re done for.

Yorkshire’s opening game of that 50-over cup is against Cumbria at Millom CC on Sunday June 30.

“It’s just like FA Cup football,” said Craddock, who will hand the captaincy to all-rounder Jawad Akhtar in that format.

“If you don’t perform one day, you’re done. And that happened last year against Durham. We didn’t play well as a unit, and that was the end of it for us in round two.

“But when these lads play well as a group, they are one of the most gifted groups in the country, from what I’ve seen.

“One of the significant challenges we as coaches, and the lads, face is that it will be intertwined with the red ball stuff if we get on a run. We have back-to-back three-days games, then a round of 50-over stuff and so on. But it’s partly designed that way as well.

“It’s all part and parcel of getting players ready for what’s ahead of them in the next few years if things go well.”

Before delving into a few matches, Craddock talks about those dozen players who have played second-team cricket this summer.

“We have nine fit players at the moment, and eight of them have played in the seconds,” he continued. “Only Tom Fraine hasn’t made his second-team debut yet. On top of that we’ve had four EPP players who have played in the seconds as well. That exposure for the younger players has been a huge positive – it’s been the biggest success of the year.

Of batter Fraine, he said: “That he hasn’t has been a scheduling thing as much as anything else. The seconds played an early block of red ball matches and have now moved into their T20 block.

“Tom’s strength lies in red ball cricket, and the second team have five four-day games to finish with in August and September. That’s where we see him debuting.

“With us missing a lot of players due to integration upwards, that’s awesome because a lot of Under 15s and 16s can come up and play for the Under 18s (Academy).”

Craddock name-checked a host of players following impressive individual performances.

The best of season so far with the bat has been Noah Kelly’s 171 in a two-day game against Lancashire at the start of May, a game at Bradford Park Avenue which ended up abandoned on day two because one of the Red Rose players suffered a dislocated knee cap.

The performance of the season with the ball has been left-arm spinner Josh Hen-Boisen’s 6-67 in a two-day draw against Durham at the Riverside, also in early May.

Yorkshire narrowly missed out on qualification for T20 Finals Day, finishing joint-second in the table alongside Durham following a three-day festival at York last month.

“The T20 festival was an awesome three days,” said Craddock. “It’s the first time it’s been done in the country for the U18s.

“We beat Leicester, Notts and Lancs pretty convincingly. But we didn’t quite get over the line against Derby in a nipper and we didn’t beat Durham, which meant we finished joint second in the group and didn’t go through.

“Noah (Kelly) got a brilliant 60 against Notts to get us over the line. We needed 10 off the last. The first ball was a wide and then he went 6, 6 to finish.

“Alex Wade bowled with good pace, as did Matty Firbank. And when I say good pace, close to 80 mph for 17-year-olds.

“We’ve just also been around the leagues playing a select XI from the Bradford League and the South Yorkshire Premier League, and Jawad has been captaining, which was good. Selection was difficult because of exams.

“That we nearly beat both of them stands us in good stead because the average age would have been 16-17.”

There was recent disappointment for batter Kelly and fast bowler Alex Wade, who both missed out on selection for the England Under 19s squad, who are set for a forthcoming series against Sri Lanka, which starts next week.

“Of course we were incredibly gutted for Noah and Alex as well, actually. He wasn’t far off at all in our view,” added Craddock.

“Alex is slightly different. He’s 17, and I think some of the seamers they’ve picked are 18 and 19 – a bit stronger, more robust, they’ve experienced Metro Bank cricket. I can get that.

“But Noah, we think he’s done as much as he possibly can.

“The messaging to Noah is, ‘Only control what you can control’.

“I don’t think Jonny Bairstow got picked for the U19s, and we use him as an example.

“Equally, there are plenty of players who have played for the 19s but haven’t gone on to have successful careers.

“It’s not the be all and end all, though it’s frustrating for Noah because we feel he’s at least earned the right to be given the opportunity to represent his country.

“But, ultimately, it’s their decision and we have to respect.

“The cool thing is that last year we said, ‘Go and make it a reality’. Now it is. We’re talking seriously about these guys playing for England.

“Everyone has different opinions, and Michael Yardy and his team have a lot of very good players to choose from. Look, it’s the same with the football at the moment. Gareth Southgate has had to leave some very good players out. It’s the way of things.

“The messaging to Noah would be, ‘Go and prove them wrong – get out there and continue scoring runs for Yorkshire’.

“He’s scored a lot of runs and is ready for the next level now. It’s exciting for him that you just don’t know.

“The wildcards haven’t been announced for the Hundred, and that could create a few more gaps for Ottis to fill in the Metro Bank. You just never know.”

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