Under-19 World Cup is immediate focus for Foakes

Ben Foakes is relishing the prospect of his next challenge in England Under-19 colours when he takes his place in the side for the Quadrangular ODI series in Australia against the host country, India and New Zealand.

The competition is part of the warm-up programme ahead of the Under-19 World Cup, also in Australia, later this year when England will be hoping to win the trophy for the first time since 1998.

Foakes, the talented Essex wicketkeeper-batsman, impressed on the recent England Under-19 tour to Bangladesh when, apart from a series of competent displays behind the stumps, he scored 111 during the third ODI victory in Chittagong.

“It was pretty tough batting out there in the conditions,” he said. “It wasn’t so much the heat but the 90 per cent humidity and even catching your breath at times wasn’t easy. I was batting for around two and a half hours and lost around six kilograms in weight on the tour.”

Foakes revealed that his national Under-19 colleagues, which include Essex teenage fast bowler Reece Topley, have an added incentive to perform well on the trip Down Under in addition to securing their place in the World Cup squad.

“Playing in the World Cup is obviously the big target this year and, because the players will miss a lot of the county season, everyone is desperate to ensure that we do really well in the World Cup and reach the final so that we haven’t wasted any opportunities that may have come instead at county level,” he added. “Personally, my aim is to keep fit, keep my form and play my part in getting us to the final.”

Although tall for a keeper, standing at 6ft 2in, Foakes sees this as an advantage at this stage of his career. “I’m not too fussed about my height and provided I stay flexible I’m happy,” he said. “It gives me a better reach. Obviously, as I get older, I’m going have to work harder to stay as flexible but, at the moment, it’s no problem. My height does help my batting though, so that’s a bonus.”

Foakes accepts that he may have to follow the path of fellow wicketkeeper Adam Wheater, who forced his way into the side as a batsman, if he is to win himself a place in the Essex side in the immediate future. Essex captain James Foster currently holds the wicketkeeping position and shows no sign of dropping his ever-inspirational levels of performance.

“I have to accept that I’m not going to get Fozzie out of his position so I’ll be trying to get into the side as a batsman,” acknowledged Foakes. “But with the schedule England Under-19s have this year, it’s going to be difficult to force my way in and, more realistically, 2013 is when I’ll be available to play a full season of county cricket and, hopefully, lay down a serious challenge for a place in the team as a batsman. If the chance to keep wicket also comes along, then I’ll be ready and delighted.”

The highly-rated Colchester-born player has been with the county since the age of nine, and signed a two-year professional contract last September having made his first-class debut against Sri Lanka, and is confident that he can adapt to both the four-day and limited-overs formats as and when any chance arises.

“We play so much one-day cricket at Under-19 level that that I think I’ve worked out a decent enough game plan,” added Foakes. “But I feel comfortable in the longer version although I’m still learning so much about the game  generally.”

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