Published: 16th February, 2017
England’s Under-19s will go on safari searching for tigers on Friday, in high spirits after giving their Indian counterparts the fright of their lives.
On a thrilling last day of the first of two four-day matches between the teams in Nagpur, England appeared to have squandered the strong position earned by their record-breaking first-innings batting performance.
The dismissal of George Bartlett, the Somerset batsman who followed his marathon 179 with another 68, triggered a collapse from 151 for four to 167 all out – with Surrey’s Ollie Pope next to go after a battling 26 – leaving India fancying their chances of making 237 in a minimum of 44 overs to pull off an unlikely win.
But in a short session before tea Aaron Beard of Essex and Warwickshire’s Harry Brookes stunned the home team by taking two wickets each, leaving India reeling on 20 for four.
Brookes claimed a third wicket after the interval and it was 61 for six when Arthur Godsal of Middlesex chipped in.
But Tamil Nadu wicketkeeper Suresh Lokeshwar frustrated England, and steered India to safety, with an unbeaten 92. Despite wickets for Liam Patterson-White and captain Max Holden, England ran out of time with India on 181 for eight – meaning there is still all to play for in the second “Test”, which begins next Tuesday.
For Andy Hurry, the head coach of the Young Lions programme, there was huge satisfaction. “Mixed emotions having come so close,” he said. “But we’ve got to be encouraged about the way these young players have performed under pressure, and the way they’ve learned and improved through the game.
“The way our opening bowlers performed with the new ball was a good example of that, because that was an area we had been disappointed with in the first innings. Brookes and Beard rose to that challenge.
“We’d already arranged the tiger safari, because there’s a national park not far from Nagpur, and I think it’s really important that when these lads have the opportunity to tour places like India as a result of their cricket, they get the chance to see the country as well. It should be another great experience for all of us – just as the last four days, and the whole tour, have been in cricketing terms.”