Rob Yates and Ben Chapman-Lilley report from the final days of the Bears Academy pre-season tour of Barbados.
It was back to business on the morning of day seven, as the lads were soon on the road and heading to Wanderers CC for their third day of training on tour.
As previously, the facilities provided consisted of one grass net on the square and a concrete net used by the spinners on the far side of the ground.
The grass wicket proved to be very similar to the first days training as it was again on the slow side and offered variable bounce. However, the boys quickly adapted to the now more familiar conditions as the bowlers regularly targeted their back of a length area and the batters were much more clinical in attack and solid in defence.
In the spin lane, the batsman continued their positive mind-set of looking to score in the middle overs by rotating the strike and manipulating the field. During the first two games this was identified as an area for improvement, and therefore the lads were keen to succeed in the nets to take their confidence into the final game on Friday to highlight the developments they had made.
After a short rain shower the boys took part in a high intensity fitness session where they completed two rounds of a circuit before a final 10 minute running interval challenge. The effort put in by the lads could not be faulted as they worked at a maximal effort despite the hot Caribbean conditions they found themselves in.
Following the fitness session, lunch was served at the Wanderers ground and the lads refuelled themselves for the afternoon that lay ahead.
Following lunch, the boys set about constructing an hour and a half training session that would be delivered to some local children attending the Garrison Seale Community School. Ed Gaffney and OHD found themselves planning a small fitness session.
Brookes, Banton, Khan, Akhtar and Davison were in the nets looking at batting and bowling, whilst the remaining five members of Yates, Griffin, Chapman-Lilley, Mousley, and McCreath devised a fielding component for the session.
The session ran smoothly, and despite the range in ability of the youngsters, the feedback was all positive and the session was thoroughly enjoyed by both the Warwickshire lads and the young Bajan cricketers.
Once returning to the hotel, it was back into the pool for a short stretch before the lads had a couple of hours of their time to relax and to get ready for dinner. Our hosts for dinner would be the Bethell family (son Jacob is a member of the Warwickshire EPP) who live out in Barbados. The lads really appreciated the night and enjoyed every moment of it, especially the delicious food that was on offer. Jacques Banton once again found time for a nap between dinner and dessert, and on return to the hotel it wasn’t long before the boys were in bed getting some rest ready for tomorrow’s training session.
On the morning of day eight, the lads prepared for their final training session of the tour that would take place at the Franklyn Stevenson Academy.
However, when we arrived at the ground it was clear that the overnight rain had cast serious doubt as to whether the session would be able to take place.
After about an hour of waiting, it was clear to see that the ground was not going to dry quick enough and the session would be unable to go ahead. Fortunately, there had been no rain at the Wanderers overnight, and we had the option to change the venue so the lads could still train.
On arrival at Wanderers CC, the lads started the session with a short but sharp fielding session that once again highlighted the high fielding standards that had been set during the tour. This was followed by a net session that took part in the two lanes used the previous day as well as a third grass lane that had been set up on the outfield for the use of the spinners.
Once again, the young Bears got stuck into the session taking full advantage of the facilities they were provided with. The wicket on the square had seemingly found a lot more pace overnight and the ball was travelling much faster onto the bat. This allowed the Warwickshire batsman to play their shots with confidence, although they did find themselves facing a lot of shorts balls as the local net bowlers worked on exploiting the extra pace in the wicket.
The grass wicket used by the spinners also offered a new challenge for the batsman as a good amount of turn required positive and assertive footwork in order for the boys to play their shots with confidence.
Lunch time soon arrived, and the boys were back at the hotel having completed their final training session of the tour.
The lads were feeling positive about our last game of the tour and were hoping to take everything they had practiced in the last week into the match.
The afternoon was spent soaking up the Caribbean sun and getting some down time before one last push the next day. The boys were full of anticipation and were hoping to make it three out of three wins against the University team that were expected to be the strongest opposition of the tour.
Today was to be the last match day on tour against the University of the West Indies. The venue was the 3 W’s Oval which has hosted many first-class fixtures and the lads were excited to play on the excellent facilities.
Having won the toss and elected to bat the start was delayed by rain showers. The rain had been a consistent feature of the tour, which had affected previous matches and training sessions and unfortunately meant this match was going to be reduced once again.
After the loss of a wicket in the opening over, Akhtar (45) and Brookes (39) put on a 2nd wicket partnership of 102.
This superb partnership was then ended by a ‘yes, no, sorry, as Brookes was run out.
Disappointingly this was the beginning of a middle-order collapse as we found ourselves seven for 123. Some late resistance from Matthew Davison (15) nudged the total to 145 for eight off 37.2 overs.
Another downpour brought a close to the innings and the revised target for the UWI was 144 off 33 overs.
The Bears’ opening bowlers of Ethan Brookes and Oliver Hannon-Dalby got us off to a great start and the opposition were 3-32 off 8.1 overs. Soon after, the introduction of spinners Dan Mousley (7-0-33-1) and Jacques Banton (7-0-25-4) had the UWI on the ropes at 116 for eight.
Some high quality lower order batting allowed the UWI to get home with one over to spare and a win by two wickets.
The Bears were gutted to not get the third win of the tour. However, they should be pleased with the efforts shown in all aspects of the trip. Even with the array of lessons to be learned and areas to improve on there are many promising signs for the up and coming season.
Late that evening, the plan to eat at Oistins restaurant was ruined by the apocalyptic rain, so Plan B came into effect and a diversion to Bert’s Restaurant where the boys enjoyed a well-deserved dinner.
After a welcomed lie in the morning was ours to do as we pleased. This resulted in the final volleyball match of the tour which resulted in an OHD, BCL and Dan Mousley victory.
Ironically it was the best weather we’d seen all week as the sun shone and not a rain drop was seen, which made it harder to leave.
After the relaxing morning we made our way to the airport and began the long journey home. On arrival to Gatwick after the eight-hour plane journey some of the squad had clearly chosen the wrong attire for the British weather.
Yates, Khan and Davison all took the shorts and flip flops option and they began to regret this decision whilst waiting for the bus at Gatwick for 20 minutes in minus one degree Celsius.
The tired team finally arrived at Edgbaston 12 hours after departing the hotel. A thoroughly enjoyed trip will be reflected on with many positive memories by all and thanks should be given to everyone who helped organize and make the trip possible.