THE future of Jersey cricket is in ‘safe hands’ according to their head coach.
Neil MacRae and his under-19s returned from the Netherlands yesterday, after securing a third-placed finish in the ICC U19 European World Cup qualifier.
The Islanders lost consecutive games to eventual winners Scotland and then Italy, but showed much grit and determination to beat hosts Netherlands and then rivals Guernsey in a weather-shortened contest on the final day.
Victory over the Sarnians had bigger implications than just that match.
It now means that Jersey obtain direct qualification into this tournament in two years’ time for the next U19s cycle.
MacRae said: ‘We were really impressive against Netherlands and Guernsey.
‘To bounce back from the disappointments of Scotland and Italy showed great character and fight.
‘There was frustration with the defeat against Scotland, because we got ourselves in a good position to win the game and couldn’t convert it.
‘Then we were probably a little poor against Italy, but the group are very mentally tough and to finish like that was brilliant.
‘The players have a lot of pride representing Jersey and I think we were good value for a top-three finish over the course of the week.’
MacRae, who also leads to men’s national team, has seen first-hand the importance of the age-group squads gaining valuable international experience.
Key young players such as Asa Tribe, Josh Lawrenson and, more recently, Charlie Brennan have all made their mark in the senior side after showing their talent for the U19s first.
Bowler Louis Kelly took eight wickets during the tournament, including a five-wicket haul against champions Scotland, while spinner Toby Britton impressed again with the ball and showed why he is on fringes of the senior team.
‘They have worked so hard during the past few years to get to this point,’ said MacRae.
‘Beau Gurner stood out with some fantastic work in the field, and he’s only 15 years old.
‘We have seen how important this side has been at producing players for the senior squad.
‘Both Asa Tribe and Josh Lawrenson have become key players for us, as well as Charlie Brennan, who recently played a destructive innings for us against Denmark.
‘No doubt that this next crop of players will be fighting to break through and progress.
‘Cricket in Jersey is in safe hands and we need to continue to work hard with our younger players to keep that momentum moving forward.
‘The ambition that this squad have displayed to get this far is exactly the attitude that we need.
‘People don’t always see the work that goes into tournaments like this, but I am so proud of their performance and desire to fight back after a poor start.’