Abrahams consoles tireless effort
The undoubted progress made by England Under-19s in the World Cup makes quarter-final exit to West Indies all the more harder to stomach.
England lost the chance to win the tournament for the second time in their history, falling 18 runs short of their target of 167 in a match reduced to 36 overs a side in Rangiora.
A solitary partnership in excess of 50 would probably have been sufficient to haul Azeem Rafiq’s side over the winning line.
But as has often proved the case for them in one-day international cricket of late, England struggled to preserve wickets in their run chase. Four middle-order batsmen went into the 20s, but no further.
“The whole camp is very disappointed,” ECB Elite Player Development manager John Abrahams told ecb.co.uk. “Especially so in light of the strong performances in the group stage.
“The rain made it a little bit of a lottery, with the game being reduced to 36 overs. But we didn’t bat well enough, or establish any sort of partnership.
“Batsmen got starts, then got out, and made it very difficult for the lower-order to get the runs that were needed.
“But the boys know that themselves. As it was going on, they were all saying, ‘There’s a long time left, we don’t need to do anything rash’.
“But if you have a couple of lean overs then players, at this stage of their careers, sometimes make injudicious decisions, and pay for them. The correct phrase is ‘scoreboard pressure’.
“Having said that, we must give credit to the West Indians - Jason Holder in particular.
“He bowled very well. He wasn’t that quick, but he was tall, thick set and very accurate. He made it difficult for our batsmen to score.”
Nonetheless, Abrahams had high praise for one of the most satisfying of all Under-19 tournaments he has been connected with.
England's superbly professional performance to beat India by 31 runs in the final group game demonstrated just how far this group of players has come since they lost back-to-back ODI series against Bangladesh.
Abrahams, the former Lancashire captain, has been involved with youth development cricket for over a decade, but estimated that Rafiq’s 2010 squad has shown more togetherness than any of its predecessors.
“Today has not been a great result, but there have been a lot of positives,” he said.
“The team has gelled really well. They’ve worked tremendously hard for themselves and for each other.
“That was even shown today, as the bowlers and fielders showed real heart to fight back and restrict West Indies to 166, especially when they were 135 for three.
“In my experience of Under-19 teams, they’ve worked as hard, if not harder, than any of the previous Under-19 teams I’ve seen, both in the preparation and competition phase.
“None more so than the boys who haven’t actually played yet. And that’s due to the team spirit that has passed throughout the camp.”
Those members of the squad yet to play may be called upon for England’s next game, a re-match against India to try and decide fifth place in the competition.
Though eliminated from the race to win the trophy, those teams knocked out at the quarter-final stage remain in New Zealand to decide fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth overall.