Beard impresses as India U19s experience close shave


Aaron Beard and 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, 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 – the bowler of the tour so far – 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.

“You’ve got to take your hat off to their wicketkeeper, because it was probably him who saved the game,” said Holden, the Middlesex opener who will start the 2017 season on loan to Northamptonshire.

“Of course there’s some frustration when you get so close and can’t quite get the win. But I’m more proud of the lads really. We’ve come and played a good India team in their own conditions, and other than the way we batted after lunch on the last day, we’ve had the better of things for most of the match.”

Holden played a significant part with a marathon innings of almost nine hours to make 170, and share a second-wicket partnership of 321 with Bartlett. “It’s been a great game,” he reflected. “We fought all the way to the end. The way Beardo and Brookesy bowled with the new ball in the little session before tea gave us the belief we could win it. And now we will go into the second match knowing we can really compete against their guys.”

For Andy Hurry, the head coach of the Young Lions programme, there was also 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.

“This has been a very significant game for George Bartlett. He’s in outstanding form and he looks in total control – it should allow him to take a huge amount of confidence into the 2017 season, and the rest of his career.

“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.”