Rob Yates thoroughly enjoyed his first taste of the England set up having tried to "absorb as much as possible" from his time in Australia with the Lions.
Warwickshire batsman Yates spent five weeks with the Lions shadowing the senior squad as they prepared for the Ashes. He earned his selection by batting superbly for the Bears last season, scoring five first-class centuries.
The 22-year-old’s excellent technique and temperament forced him into the selectors’ notebooks and hinted at a potentially very bright future in the years ahead. In the immediate term, however, he is getting a well-deserved break – and reacclimatising to the English Midlands. Birmingham is a few degrees colder than Brisbane.
“It feels odd to be back,” he said. “From being in the Ashes bubble to the cold and grey of an English winter is a bit of a jolt! But it was a great experience and I feel that I learned loads from it.
“It was my first taste of any type of England environment and I really enjoyed it. It was so interesting to spend time with players from other counties and get fresh insights. I chatted to the senior guys as much as I could and just tried to absorb as much as possible. We trained quite a lot with the Ashes squad until the back end of the trip when we split so they could focus on the Ashes and we concentrated on our game with Australia A.”
That Australia A game was Yates’ Lions debut and he showed up well in the second innings with a typically compact 41 (71 balls, six fours).
“It was lovely to spend some time in the middle – that’s my happy place – though I was disappointed not to convert it into a big score,” he said. “I felt pretty comfortable out there. I really enjoyed the challenge of batting in Australia. It is very different to England where you have to defend your stumps much more and bowlers try to hit the seam. In Australia there is more short stuff and bowlers have to find other ways to get you out.”
The match also brought Yates his first Lions wicket – Aussie Test star Usman Khawaja, caught behind off a glorious, fizzing, flighted delivery which Jeetan Patel would have been proud to call his own.
“I was very pleased with the wicket,” he said. “I think I was a bit shocked, as could be seen from my lack of celebration – I didn’t know what to do!
“I did a lot of bowling out there and worked with Min Patel which was great. I want to make my bowling as effective as possible because it’s another way to get involved in the game. I was pleased to take a few slip catches to contribute in that way too.”
Yates’ reliable slip-fielding is a huge asset, as was much to the Bears’ benefit last season when his safe hands sent 21 batsmen on their way in the championship. He enjoys life in the cordon and the challenge of taking chances which arrive quicker as the bowlers get faster as his career advances.
“I’ve always had decent hands and I think, as long as you keep practicing, you shouldn’t lose it,” he said. “It does keep you on your toes with faster bowlers, though I have a bit of experience of that from the Bears. I remember a 2nd XI game at Surrey where I was stood at third slip to Olly Stone in the dark…and was told to move closer! The next one hit me in the chest and went for a one-bounce four.
I did catch one too though – hopefully more stay in that fall out!”
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