Yorkshire’s Academy are aiming to end their impressive summer in style this weekend by winning the ECB’s Under 18s County T20 competition at Kibworth Cricket Club.
Academy head coach Tom Craddock’s side have qualified for Sunday’s Finals Day, which also includes finalists Surrey as well as Northamptonshire.
Yorkshire will play Northamptonshire in the morning semi-final (10.30am) for the right to face Surrey in the afternoon. The Oval county qualified directly for the final courtesy of accruing the best record of the trio in the group stage.
That was played during the early stages of the summer, and Yorkshire won three of their five matches to finish top of Group One.
Craddock and co are desperate to bring silverware back to Headingley, but they can already reflect on a job well done this summer having most recently finished top of their three-day Championship group by a point ahead of Nottinghamshire.
“From a performance angle, it’s been very nice to see,” said the former county leg-spinner.
“The three-day comp, we finished top of our group by a point amidst a lot of rain. We ended up with four draws and a win and competed well in all five games. That was really cool.
“The other thing we managed to do was play 29 players.
“Being able to balance performance with the development of a lot of our players has been an incredible win for all of us. It’s something we’re very, very proud of.”
Craddock continued: “From a T20 standpoint, to get to Finals Day is awesome. We didn’t quite get to where we wanted to in 50-over cricket. But watching the development of Louie Owens and Noah Kelly, who went on to get called up for some of the England Under 19s Invitational stuff, was another huge win.”
A host of Craddock’s charges have gone up to perform well in the second team or have gained national recognition in things such as the ECB’s Super Fours competition or within the England Under 19s set-up.
Earlier this week, 18-year-old wicketkeeper-batter Isaac Light was part of the first-team’s squad at Scarborough, where Yorkshire beat Derbyshire in the LV= Insurance County Championship. He got on the field as a substitute fielder and did a lot of work in the nets with batting coach Ali Maiden.
“Isaac has done amazing this year. He’s captained the team throughout the T20 comp,” said Craddock.
“We’ve tried to spread the captaincy around this year across the formats.
“Noah did some in the 50-over and three-day, Isaac in the T20s and Alex Cree and Will Bennison have dipped in and out when Noah and Isaac haven’t been available.
“Isaac has developed a really good understanding of what it’s like to captain and open the batting.
“From what I’m hearing, he went really well with the ones.
“He was good around the group, as he always is. For his development, for him to get a different lens on things, has really helped.”
Light is one to keep an eye on in the next couple of years, as is the aforementioned 17-year-old batter Noah Kelly, who has performed at all levels this summer, including for the second team and Driffield Town in the Yorkshire Premier League North.
Last week, Kelly impressed first-team coach Ottis Gibson during a two-day senior intra-squad friendly, in which he opened the batting with Adam Lyth.
“I think Ben Mike hit him on the arm in that game,” said Craddock. “So he went off, got that treated and came back on and played nicely for 30-odd or so.
“He’s had a really, really good year. A lot of them have, but he’s the one who stands out with his performances. He’s also done really well in league cricket. I think he’s nearly got 1,000 runs for them in all comps. He’s definitely one to watch.”
Craddock is not quite sure yet who he will have available for Sunday given the second team are also playing next week down at Guildford against Surrey.
But confidence is high.
“We have a really good chance of getting up and winning that trophy,” Craddock added.
“We’ve been very fortunate. Richard Robinson (Yorkshire’s head of grounds) has let us train at Headingley on Saturday before we get on the coach. A lot of the lads have never trained there before. That’s a nice little gift for them.
“It will be a nice way to end the season before they all have to go back to school.
“This is our last game as an Academy programme this summer, and hopefully we can walk away with a trophy.”
First-team coach Gibson added: “Through Tom Smith and Ali Maiden, we’ve had quite a close relationship with Cradds in the Academy. And we’re keeping an eye on what’s going on at that level.
“We had that two-day game in which a few of the Academy lads played, and some of the bowlers also come and bowl to us in the nets.
“What I’ve been seeing from the start is that there are a hell of a lot of very good young cricketers in Yorkshire, so it doesn’t surprise me to see them dominating county cricket at that level.
“Winning isn’t everything because you’re still trying to develop good habits. Whether they win it or not, the experience should still be a good one. But if you are at Finals Day, they may as well go and try to win it.”