Warwickshire Academy graduate Rob Yates has praised Minor Counties cricket for helping him to bridge the gap between club and first-class cricket.

Speaking to Paul Bolton, the 19-year-old left-hander from Birmingham Premier League club Moseley gained valuable experience with Staffordshire when he played two T20 and three Minor Counties Championship matches.

Yates marked his Warwickshire debut with a half century in the recent Royal London One Day Cup match against Leicestershire before opening his First Class account a week later in the recent game against Hampshire at Edgbaston.

You just look at the number of players around the county circuit who have played Minor Counties cricket and for Staffordshire alone and it’s quite impressive.

Rob Yates

He is one of more than 50 players involved in the current round of Specsavers County Championship matches who have either played Minor Counties cricket or played their formative cricket in one of the 20 Minor Counties.

“Kadeer Ali, Staffordshire’s captain, coaches in the academy at Edgbaston and he invited me to play for Staffordshire,” Yates said.

“My first games were in the T20 competition but then I played three three-day matches which came after a short spell of county Second XI cricket at the start of the season.

“It gave me the chance to refocus. After that spell with Staffordshire it was back to Warwickshire and it turned out to be quite a successful spell for me.

“Minor Counties is the next step up from club cricket and it was a good learning experience. We played Cumberland up at Netherfield and it was full on and very competitive.

“The difference with Second XI cricket is the pros are a bit older so they are wise and clever in what they do. So it’s different but it’s a good standard.

“You just look at the number of players around the county circuit who have played Minor Counties cricket and for Staffordshire alone and it’s quite impressive.”

Yates is one of three members of Warwickshire’s side who are taking on Hampshire at Edgbaston this week, who have played for Staffordshire in recent seasons, joining Alex Thomson and Liam Banks. A fourth Staffordshire product, reserve wicketkeeper Alex Mellor is also on the staff at Edgbaston along with former Norfolk paceman Olly Stone, England all-rounder Chris Woakes, who benefited from a spell with Herefordshire early in his career, batsman Ed Pollock (Herefordshire) and seamer Liam Norwell (Cornwall).

Warwickshire recently announced a formal partnership with Staffordshire Cricket to create an elite level pathway into first-class cricket.

Warwickshire also welcomed Suffolk batsman Alex Oxley into the academy this season and he made a half century in this week’s Second XI win over Kent at Polo Farm in Canterbury. Seamer James Cox, who made his Staffordshire debut in last Sunday’s Minor Counties Trophy win against Hertfordshire, also took five second innings wickets at Canterbury.

Although Warwickshire commitments will now take priority for Yates he remains open to the prospect of playing more cricket for Staffordshire.

“I have told Kadeer if he needs me I am always available. They are a good group of lads at Staffordshire and I enjoy playing for them,” Yates said.

This Sunday Staffordshire make the short trip across the border to Nantwich to face Cheshire in their opening T20 double-header in Group One.