England U19s will return from South Africa today quietly content with their showing in Potchefstroom. Admittedly they lost the T20 series 2-1, but then went on to win the 50 over series 3-0. Unfortunately their game against the full South African side was washed out amid heavy thunderstorms.
For full details on all the games click on the "U19s in South Africa" tag above.
It took the team a little while to find their feet and the pace of the wickets, losing the first two T20 games, although they should really have chased down 113 in the second game. But by the third T20 the batsmen were beginning to like South African conditions and rattled up 181 in their 20 overs, which the Saffers were never going to get. From then on England looked in charge in the series, winning the toss and batting first in all three 50 over games and scoring 275, 275 and 238. It was only in the last game that South Africa looked even likely to chase down the target, failing by just one run to meet the England score.
After the first two T20s England batted well against a fairly moderate bowling attack. Sophie Luff (233 runs at 58.25) and Aylish Cranstone (184 runs at 46.00) headed the batting, with consistently good scores. They were closely followed by skipper Jess Watson (187 runs at 37.80), who started the series really well before running out of steam a little. Georgia Hennessy (154 runs at 25.66) tempered her middle-order batting according to the state of the game and played some firey innings to help the scoring along when it began to lag.
On the bowling front it was the seamers that dominated with 9 wickets for Hennessy and 8 apiece for Freya Davies and Grace Gibbs. Off-spinner Fi Morris with 8 wickets was the only spinner to have any real impact on any games, generally bowling tight spells, but left-arm Lydia Harris also bowled well in the two games she played.
Generally the ground fielding was good, including five run-outs in the first 50 over game, but the catching was below par. Perhaps another argument for more white-ball cricket in England in the future?
Five of this fifteeen woman squad are in the England Academy for the winter - Butler, Carr, Davies, Hennessy and Watson and five more are in the current U19 squad - Collis, Gibbs, Harris, Kelly and O'Keefe, and all will have taken a lot from this tour and are likely to be seen again in England shirts. In addition 19 year olds Luff and Cranstone have certainly not done their future England prospects any harm with their performances on this tour.
[As a postscript Sophie Luff and wicket-keeper Carla Rudd have been added to the Academy squad]