Rob Yates and Ben Chapman-Lilley report on the Bears’ Academy pre-season tour of Barbados.

Day 3

Day three commenced and the boys were ready to embark on their second training session of the tour in the early afternoon.

A short transfer to the Franklyn Stevenson Academy followed and the lads were ready to get stuck in on the two excellently prepared grass wickets, as well as a third AstroTurf lane provided.

The grass wickets proved a lot quicker than the previous day and offered consistent bounce which was utilised by the local net bowlers as well as the lads themselves. Nevertheless, the Bears batsman stood strong and used the extra pace to their advantage in a heavily scenario-based training session.

The third spinners lane saw a lot of variable bounce as well as some inconsistent turn for the bowlers, which provided a great opportunity for the lads to play the spinners positively, with decisive footwork as any half committed shots were exposed by the bowlers.

Due to a local game taking place on the Franklyn Stevenson Academy ground, another short transfer to the local police ground at Weymouth allowed the boys to take part in their first group fielding session of the trip on the same ground that would be used in the second game on Monday.

A high intensity session took place in which we focused on all areas of fielding, although we took particular care on our direct hits. Finlay McCreath showcased his talent as he hit the stumps regularly and set the standard high for the others to follow.

This was a key area of our game which we were aiming to take into the matches that followed in the next two days.

As the session came to a close, it was only a matter of time now before the Bear’s first game in Barbados the following day. The team spirits were high and the lads were hoping to get off the mark with an opening win. The preparations were done and after dinner it was time for a good night’s rest ready to hit the ground running the following morning.

Day 4

The much anticipated match day had finally arrived for the Bears and a mixture of nerves and excitement were flying around the camp. The venue for the day was Windward Cricket Club and the opposition Barbados U19s.

Having lost the toss, we found ourselves bowling first on a relatively flat wicket with a strong crosswind meaning our bowlers would have to be on it from ball one.

This was not the case though as Khayam Khan was dispatched over the pavilion first ball of the match. The fierce wind helped the ball to continue its flight path for quite a while.

This immediately highlighted the Bajan approach towards the game as anything that was pitched up was sent to the rope.

Fin McCreath brilliantly showcased the length required for the Windward surface as he hit the deck hard and claimed figures of 10-0-40-4 along with an outstanding run out from cover.

Following a ‘specy’ of a catch on the boundary from Ethan Brookes and a clever run out from Hannon-Dalby the hosts finished on 227 all out.

The openers began positively as eight runs came off the first over.

After Akhtar was dismissed for 10, Yates and Brookes delivered a partnership of 72 until Yates fell for 46, which triggered a mini collapse as four wickets fell for 14 runs.

After a steady rebuild, Brookes was dismissed for 73 (80) and the Bears were six for 165. Barbados were the favourites and had us 197 for nine, however the game was far from done.

The unlikely heroes of Khayam Khan (11*) and Edmund Gaffney (18*) put on a 32 run partnership and saw the boys home with three balls to spare. A determined and gritty performance from the two tail-enders securing the victory for Warwickshire. The spirits were high and the boys hoped to continue their winning ways the following day.

Day 5

Day five commenced with another early start and the boys were full of energy, eager to win their second match against the Combined Schools / Barbados U17 XI at the Police Ground.

However, once the warm up had finished the heavens opened and there was no sign of play for another two hours. After the first couple of overs the rain came again forcing us into a 27 over fixture.

The new opening partnership of Ben Chapman-Lilley and Dan Mousley put on 62 for the first wicket seeing us off to a positive start, but unfortunately there was another middle order collapse of four wickets for 39.

Shoaib Akhtar (28 off 24) and Rob Yates (19* off 11) found themselves batting at six and eight respectively. However few lofty blows, including one into the bus station, helped Warwickshire finish on 144 for eight..

The second innings was opened by skipper Ethan Brookes with the new ball and he demonstrated some good pace. At the other end Khayam Khan took the first two wickets in two balls, followed by Fin McCreath who chipped in with another two wickets, adding to his tally for the tour.

Jacques Banton then continued his fine form with the ball and bowled brilliantly for his spell of 6-3-13-3.

A quality team performance in the field saw us bowl the hosts out for 105 in 24.3 overs.

It has been good to see lots of the work that’s happened in the indoor school taken out into the middle in all areas of the game. However there is still plenty to work on for the final game against the University of the West Indies who are rumoured to be a very strong side.

Day 6

On rest day, we boarded a minibus ready for the tour of the island.

To begin our tour, we drove up the west coast through Bridgetown, passing the Kensington Oval and the Three W’s Oval that would host our final game of the tour on Friday.

We then followed the coast towards the exclusive Sandy Lane area and stopped off by the beach where a few photos were captured by the lads.

Back on the bus then, and directly across the Island saw us pass Wayne Rooney’s Barbados home, and eventually we reached Windy Hill where we welcomed a much needed lunch. This consisted of the usual dishes of rice and peas, and Macaroni pie, but also offered a new taste in the form of flying fish which was highly recommended!

After lunch, we were back on the road looking for a beach stop to allow the lads time to spend in the sea. We finally stopped off at ‘Miami Beach’ where the lads swiftly made a move off the bus and it was only a matter of seconds before they were chest deep in the still waters of this picturesque spot. An hour or so of splashing about followed before we made the short journey back to the hotel.

Back at the hotel, the now daily game of volleyball took place before a BBQ dinner was served a little later on by the hotel staff. Hopefully the boys managed to recuperate enough energy throughout the day to hit tomorrows training session hard to strengthen the areas that had been discussed in a team meeting just after breakfast.