Hildreth reaps benefits of Lions trip
James Hildreth believes captaining England Lions during their winter tour of the Caribbean was an invaluable experience.
The Somerset batsman led the Lions to a respectable joint-third finish in the West Indies Cricket Board regional four-day championship and enhanced his burgeoning reputation by scoring 546 runs at an average of 60.66.
Only Jamaica’s Marlon Samuels was able to better that and Hildreth thinks batting on surfaces different to those he is used to in England has made him a better player.
When asked whether he enjoyed the tour, Hildreth told ecb.co.uk: “I’ve loved it. Obviously I was captain and I wanted to have an experience of what it was all about so I’m really happy with how that went. Being able to score some runs as well made the trip really enjoyable.
“It’s been slightly different over here, the conditions you get, there’s been a bit of spin and the odd one pitching up at you so I’ve experienced different kinds of situations and conditions.
“From a batting point of view, I’ve been able to practice against most types of bowling within those conditions so that’s been really beneficial.”
The Lions, who were undefeated during their trip, could have finished top of the table had they been able to defeat Jamaica in the final game. However, the tourists fell agonisingly short as the last-wicket pair of Jason Dawes and Sheldon Cotterrell combined to ensure a draw.
Hildreth admitted that finishing first would have been a fantastic way to cap off a successful tour but he was left to rue his side’s luck.
He said: “I feel we deserved more out of the trip as we probably played the strongest cricket of the teams out here. To finish joint third is good but I think we deserved to finish a bit higher than that.
“I’m disappointed because the lads have played really well. We’ve played really tough cricket and I think it’s the first time in quite a while that an England Lions team have been undefeated during a winter."
Despite his frustrations, the 26-year-old was overjoyed with how the entire squad performed. James Taylor was just behind his captain with the bat as he scored 527 runs at 58.55, while Craig Kieswetter and Andrew Gale averaged above 45.
Danny Briggs excelled himself by finishing as the competition’s highest wicket-taker with 33 wickets at 18.87 apiece, while Jade Dernbach took 19 at 15.63 before winning a call-up to the England one-day squad.
Hildreth said: “One of the good things about this team is that at some point, everyone’s put their hand up and contributed. I think most of the batsman got a hundred and all the bowlers seem to have been chipping in with wickets.
“From a team point of view, it shows that we’re playing well as a squad.”