Everything about Josh de Caires – the way that he worked the ball neatly off his legs, the confident manner in which he defended, the assured way that he left the ball outside his off stump, to go with the occasional flourish in the early-spring sunshine – put one in mind of his father, Mike Atherton.
The 18-year-old has some mighty fine genes, it is fair to say.
Of course, it has long been the fate of the talented offspring of the talented parent that comparisons invariably are made between the two. And, like all such talented offspring, de Caires is a skilful operator in his own right as he showed in the colours of the Leeds-Bradford students.
Against arguably the strongest seam attack that Yorkshire could field, boasting the new-ball combination of Ben Coad and Matthew Fisher, club captain Steve Patterson and England all-rounder David Willey, de Caires – also great-grandson of former West Indies batsman Frank de Caires – caught the eye on an unseasonably warm and resplendent March day.
A product of the Middlesex Academy, having represented the club from age-group through to second-team level, and having signed a three-year deal with the county last August, the teenager is playing for the visitors here while studying for a three-year economics degree at the University of Leeds.
He scored an unbeaten 94 from 232 balls with 14 fours in just under five hours, evoking his father’s trademark skill and application, qualities which the Yorkshire supporters – had they been permitted to attend – would have richly appreciated.
It helped Leeds-Bradford to a highly commendable 205-1 on day two of the three-day friendly at Headingley in reply to Yorkshire’s 485-5, the hosts declaring 50 minutes into the day after adding 68 without loss in 11 overs.
Will Fraine retired out for his overnight 61, Jonny Tattersall advanced from 11 to 28, and Matthew Waite struck a splendid 46 from 31 balls with nine fours, but it was de Caries to whom most of the plaudits belonged as well as the left-handed opener Taylor Cornall, who struck an unbeaten 97 from 214 balls with 15 fours, the pair sharing 204 for the second wicket.
“It was just really good fun to be out there and a nice pitch to bat on,” said de Caries. “Taylor batted well – probably better than I did, to be fair.”
Speaking about the family link, de Caries added: “I haven’t seen that many clips of my dad playing, to be honest. I get told I look like him plenty, so that’s good enough for me.”
Son is grateful for the space that father provides. “He’s kind of stayed out of the way, really,” he said. “He doesn’t like to get too involved and just watches from the sideline, has a word here or there, but nothing major. He’s kind of left it to me, which I really appreciate.”
After Fisher struck with his first ball in the second over of the students’ innings, the left-handed Josh Haynes trapped lbw by an inswinging yorker, there was no noticeable flaw in de Caries’s game.
His runs came all around the wicket, with whips through the leg-side, powerful pulls and cuts, deft run-downs behind square on the off-side and a particularly memorable straight drive off Patterson to the Kirkstall Lane rope.
There were eight boundaries in his fifty, reached from 128 balls, as he and Cornall prospered in tandem. Both look excellent players on this evidence, and it will be fascinating to see how their careers evolve.
As for Yorkshire, they toiled hard on a good batting pitch, with the visitors’ resistance much better preparation for them than had they simply ripped through the order. No seamer went for three runs an over during the best part of a day in the dirt as the bowlers got useful miles in their legs.
The England and Wales Cricket Board is open to the idea of Covid-19 passports to facilitate the return of fans into grounds.
Crowds are not permitted until at least May 17 as part of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, when up to 25 per cent capacity will be possible.
Neil Snowball, ECB managing director of county cricket, said: “It is going to be a question of balancing three things (going forward). One, if there is going to be some sort of passport or Covid certification; second is testing, third is some sort of social distancing, and we have said we will do whatever we are asked to do to make sure we can get the maximum number of people back.”
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