THERE were not too many bright points for English cricket during a winter of woe.
Beaten 12-1 in Australia across all three formats, and humbled and humiliated in the World Twenty20, it was a chastening experience for the senior side.
For the Under-19s, however, it was a different story.
Led by Yorkshire’s Will Rhodes, and featuring three other Yorkshire players in the form of Jonathan Tattersall, Matthew Fisher and Josh Shaw, the juniors exceeded expectations to finish third in the global event.
For Rhodes, in particular, it was a personal triumph, with his captaincy skills widely acclaimed.
The Nottingham-born all-rounder, 19, enhanced his reputation and contributed some useful runs and wickets.
Rhodes was England’s second-highest run-scorer in the tournament with 187 at 37.40, including a top-score of 76 in the semi-final against Pakistan, which England narrowly lost by three wickets with five balls remaining.
He was England’s joint second-highest wicket-taker, too, capturing eight at 24.12 and just being pipped to the title of leading wicket-taker by county colleague Fisher, who claimed 10 at 19.70.
“It was a good tournament for the team in general and for me personally,” reflected Rhodes, who bats left-handed and bowls right-arm fast-medium.
“To get to the semi-final of the World Cup was an outstanding effort from the lads because we weren’t expected to play as well as we did.
“To beat Australia in the third-place play-off was the icing on the cake really and topped off the winter from our point of view.
“We made a conscious effort to go into the competition and play without fear, and we created our own brand of cricket with positive intent.”
Rhodes’s men beat UAE and New Zealand in the group stages, where their only defeat came against Sri Lanka.
They beat India by three wickets in the quarter-finals and, after their semi-final heartbreak, picked themselves up to defeat Australia by one wicket in the third-placed play-off, Yorkshire’s Shaw and Fisher holding their nerve to lead them to a target of 247 with two balls remaining courtesy of a 10th-wicket stand of 34.
“The lads made it easy for me to captain them,” added Rhodes.
“The effort they put in was more than anyone could have asked for and it was an honour and pleasure to lead the team.
“It would have been nice to have gone all the way and lifted the trophy, because if you get to the semi-final of any sporting event you obviously want to win it. But it wasn’t to be and it was a terrific tournament for us overall.”
Rhodes, who made his Yorkshire first-team debut last summer and played seven List A games and two T20 matches, is now determined to take his form into the county season.
He plans to fight hard for a first-team place, although admits he faces a difficult task to nail down a spot.
“It’s going to be tough to get into the Yorkshire team because we’ve got such a good squad now,” he said.
“But I’ll work hard in the second XI and do my best to force my way into the first team.
“Last year, a lot of the squad played at some point or other, so there will be chances along the way and it’s all about trying to take them when they come along.
“My ultimate goal is to play Championship cricket, particularly with us having done so well last summer, because it just makes you more determined to get into the team and hopefully be part of a title-winning year.”
Rhodes, who plays his club cricket for Stamford Bridge, was speaking at the launch of Yorkshire’s new kit for the coming season.
The clothing, designed by Puma, will see the players wear a classic cream kit in Championship cricket, with trimmings of Cambridge blue, Oxford blue and gold.
The one-day/T20 strip is a distinctive purple, black and gold, with both kits featuring the names of sponsors Mazars and Wensleydale Creamery.
Both kits will go on sale for the first time on April 20, the opening day of Yorkshire’s first home Championship game of the season against Northamptonshire.
Prices for each kit are £40 for juniors and £45 adults (small to XXL).
Supporters can take advantage of a 10 per cent discount if they pre-order their shirts online via yorkshireccc.com before Saturday April 19.
Orders can also be placed at the official club store, located at the Yorkshire Cricket Centre, St Michael’s Lane, Headingley, Leeds, or via 0843 504 3099 (press option 3).