Aaron Beard hopes familiar surroundings in Chelmsford will help him and the rest of the England Under-19s team bounce back against Sri Lanka in the second match of the Royal London One-Day Series this weekend.
Beard was left unbeaten on 17 as England crumbled to 149 all out, and a 108-run defeat, in the first game of the series in Wormsley on Wednesday – which followed Sri Lanka’s victory in the second four-day match between the teams in Northampton.
But the Essex seamer is relishing the prospect of representing his country in his home town on Saturday.
“Definitely I’m looking forward to going back home after a good three and a half weeks on the road,” said Beard, who took four for 62 against the senior Sri Lankan team at Chelmsford on his first-class debut earlier this season.
“It will be good to see all the Essex boys and all my friends in Chelmsford and play at my home ground. I’m a five minute drive away – when I didn’t drive it was a 20-minute walk which is how I got to the ground.”
Beard hadn’t even started driving lessons when he first pulled on an England shirt at Chelmsford – in the four-day match they arranged against Essex to finalise preparations for the 2013 Ashes series, when he found himself fielding as 12th man as a 15-year-old schoolboy.
He has taken major steps forwards in his professional career this summer, making two appearances in the Specsavers County Championship after that memorable debut against Sri Lanka.
But he has still enjoyed the fresh experience of being in camp with the England Under-19 squad for the last few weeks, and following in the footsteps of Dan Lawrence and Callum Taylor who have become regulars in the Essex senior set-up this summer.
“I’m quite good friends with them both,” he added. “I look up to them because they’re both Essex lads and if you ask them questions about it they give you a clear and honest answer. They’ve obviously done well at this level so they’re very good people to talk to.
“It is different being in camp with England compared to playing for your county, and the cricket is different as well playing against the Sri Lankans.
“Some of the lads in our squad haven’t got professional contracts so they don’t train week in week out, so it’s a stepping stone to get them into that frame of mind for what they have to do and the levels they have to be at. It can be quite challenging at times which we’ve found out the last couple of games.
“250 was probably just below par on that pitch – if we batted first we were looking at 270, 280 as a good score. So we thought we kept them down to a reasonably good total. Obviously they had a couple of good partnerships which increased their score slightly but we thought coming into the next half of the game that we were in pole position ready to get a win under our belts.”
Andy Hurry, the head coach of the England Development Programme, identified the collapse against Sri Lanka’s spinners as the failing that the youngsters most urgently need to address.
“It is a different challenge for our players, facing high-quality spin – the sort of challenge that makes Under-19 international cricket so valuable,” he said.
“In the first one-day game at Wormsley, we obviously failed to make the adjustments, or to cope with the pressure being exerted by the Sri Lankans. So over the next 48 hours we’ll be challenging and working with all the players to think about their approach.”
The games starts at 10:30am and entry will be via donation to The Essex Cricket Foundation with all supporters urged to turn out and support the next generation of England cricketers.
The series then concludes on Tuesday at The Spitfire Ground, Kent with the game being broadcast live on Sky Sports.