IT is an ‘exciting time’ for Jersey cricket with the number and quality of young players progressing through to the senior national side, head coach Neil MacRae has said.
The Caesareans closed out their 50-over season with a comprehensive inter-insular win in Guernsey – a game which marked Ben Stevens’ final one in a Jersey shirt after the all-rounder confirmed his retirement.
A number of regulars in the side were unavailable for the trip to Guernsey but that provided an opportunity for the likes of Toby Britton and Patrick Gouge to stake their claim.
MacRae said: ‘First of all, I am delighted with the performance and the margin of the win. We went into the game with seven first-team regulars unavailable but Jonty Jenner led from the front with his century and the players who came in did an excellent job and pushed their case to be part of the team going forward.
‘Zak Tribe (who scored 96 not out) has been around the squad for a few years and it was a spectacular innings from him. Toby Britton bowled a tight spell and looked well beyond his 17 years and Patrick Gouge looked good opening the batting. We have got several that have come through the under-19s system. It is an exciting time with the youngsters that are coming through. A lot of time and effort has been put into the youth programme and it is good to see that paying off.
‘We have had big tournaments in Namibia and Scotland this year. We didn’t quite get the results in terms of our overall goal but we did produce some good wins and some good spells in games. We are a bit frustrated by that but we also recognise that there were a lot of young players coming through and we are definitely further on then we were 12 months ago.’
A mammoth unbroken 208-run partnership between man-of-the-match Jenner and Tribe set Jersey on the path to victory and – after the bowlers had made inroads into the Guernsey batters – Stevens was able to take centre stage to bowl Luke Bichard to take the final wicket and wrap up the win.
Paying tribute to the retiree, MacRae said: ‘Ben Stevens has been arguably Jersey’s greatest cricketer, certainly one of the best.
‘He has been a mainstay of the team for the last ten years and he rolled back the clock and made a important contribution with both bat and ball. His partnership with Asa in tough conditions in the first 20 overs was crucial and it was fitting he took the final wicket.’