Two teenage cricketers from Swardeston could be on their way to playing for England.
Robert Newton and Bud Bailey have been selected to join the England Under-15 winter programme, at Loughborough University. It’s rare for Norfolk-bred players to represent their country, and even more rare that two players from the same club should be awarded the same honour.
Batsman Newton and bowler Bailey, both 14 years old, are also in the Northamptonshire CC Academy. Newton has signed up for his second year, while Bailey is among the new intakes. Both lads, needless to say, have ambitions of career in first-class cricket and England caps as their ambitions, but in the meantime they’re savouring the early honours.
“It’s nice to be able to make my parents feel proud,” said 6ft 4in Bailey. “It’s nice to be given the chance to test ourselves,” said Newton. “My ambition is just to get into a first team and play as long as possible – and play for England as well.”
Both have played East Anglian Premier League cricket for Swardeston – an achievement in itself – but Newton admits he has learned plenty since moving to Northants after impressing at the club’s winter Junior Centre of Excellence.
“You learn so much and see what a professional set-up it is,” he said. “It’s not just the cricket side of it either. For example, we had a sports psychologist and for a while you wonder why and then you realise that it helps you a lot more than you expect. When you think about it, it helps putting things into practise.”
The opening session of the England Under-15 programme was at the weekend, when one of the first people Bailey met was the legendary Australian wicket-keeper Rodney Marsh, now the director of the England and Wales Cricket Board’s National Academy.
The programme will cover all aspects of the game, including physical fitness, team-based activities, mental toughness and specialist sessions, with coaches including Geoff Cook (batting), Ottis Gibson (bowling), Bruce French (wicket-keeping) and Trevor Penney (fielding).
Bailey, a pupil at Wayland High School, started playing cricket around five years ago, beginning at Swaffham before moving to Bradenham and his current club, Swardeston, where he has spent two seasons.
Newton, although born in Somerset, has played his youth cricket for Norfolk since the age of 11, and attends Framlingham College in Suffolk. He represented Taverham Hall School’s Under-9s team when he was just six years old and played for the Norfolk Under-11s when he was nine.
Having two Norfolk youngsters involved in an England set-up is certainly a feather in the county’s cap, as Norfolk Cricket Board secretary Derek Cousins acknowledged.
“It’s reflective glory for us,” he said. “We are absolutely delighted for them both.
“It’s rare that a minor county can get two players into such a programme.
“Our whole emphasis is on youth cricket and last year 85pc of the money we had was devoted to youth cricket. It’s been money well spent.”