Beard contributes again with U19 game evenly poised


England Under-19s go into the last day of their India tour with the prospect of another breathless finish to the second four-day game in Nagpur.

Last week they gave India a real fright in a fourth-innings run chase before the home team held on for a draw with eight wickets down, showing that anything is possible when England resume their second innings on 34 for two, with a lead of 21.

As in the first game, England’s bowlers stuck to their task admirably in the heat, restricting India to a lead of 13 when they declared late on day three at 388 for nine.

There were two wickets each for Essex seamer Aaron Beard, Nottinghamshire left-arm spinner Liam Patterson-White and Surrey’s off-spinning all-rounder Euan Woods – who produced his best performance of the tour to earn two for 61 from 27 overs.

“It’s been a good day’s cricket, and we’ve put ourselves in a decent position for the last day,” said the 18-year-old from Berkshire, whose bowling became especially important to the squad when his Surrey club-mate Amar Virdi was ruled out of the tour by a back injury.

“It felt good to contribute. We went out aiming to build some pressure, and me and Henry Brookes managed to do that in the first hour. Aaron Beard bowled really well as well, and we kept picking up wickets through the day.”

Woods also praised the performances of the two other Surrey players on the trip – wicketkeeper Ollie Pope and Will Jacks, another off-spinning all-rounder, who made 77 in England’s first innings, his best score of the tour.

“You could really see that innings getting Will’s confidence up,” added Woods. “Him and Delray Rawlins batted really well, and you can see the importance because India only ended up getting a small lead.

“Ollie’s batted well throughout the tour, and he’s kept well as well. I think all three of us have enjoyed it. It’s been a challenge, and very different from the cricket at home. But it’s been interesting to be here for things like the IPL auction, when you can see how big cricket is – it’s unbelievable.”

Woods will be straight back to school next week to continue his studies – for A-level PE, and B-techs in Business and Travel and Tourism. “I’ve been able to keep up to date with work and on top of it which is important when you’re away for such a long time,” he explained.

“I’m back for three or four weeks then I’m going to Sri Lanka with the Surrey Academy.”

It is a similar story for Beard, although as he has a professional contract with Essex he will be joining their senior squad on their pre-season trip to Dubai.

“You can’t get enough sun, can you?” he joked. “I’m really looking forward to that trip, because it’s such a big season for the club being back in Division One. But I’m going to have a week off when I get back I think, and just relax, because it’s been a tough tour out here.

“I was struggling a bit with my confidence and rhythm in the one-day matches. But I’ve worked hard with Jon Lewis in the nets and it’s been coming together in the Tests.

“The conditions in Nagpur have been more like I was expecting from India, with much drier pitches which turn a lot. That’s hard work, but we’ve enjoyed the challenge – and got a few wickets.

“With one day to go, the game is nicely set up as well.”