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Essex’s Ben Foakes relishing playing for England Lions

15:00 01 February 2013

Ben Foakes keeping wicket for England Under-19 during a one-day international against Ireland at Grace Road last July   Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

Ben Foakes keeping wicket for England Under-19 during a one-day international against Ireland at Grace Road last July Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

2012 Getty Images

AFTER already rubbing shoulders with some of the biggest names in English cricket, Ben Foakes is relishing playing for the Lions in Australia.

Foakes has an impressive CV thus far, even though he has appeared in only five first-class matches.

The wicket-keeper-batsman from Clacton, who has been part of the England set-up since he was 16, made 93 on his county championship debut for Essex against Leicestershire last May.

He was then England’s leading run-scorer at the Under-19 World Cup in Australia and followed that up by scoring 90 off 94 balls for the England Performance Programme in their three-day match against DY Patil Academy XI in Mumbai in November.

It was during that match that Foakes, who was clearing away equipment on his own after an indoor net session at the Essex Autogroup Graham Gooch Centre before our interview, lined-up alongside a clutch of current England internationals.

He said: “I was quite nervous and also curious playing alongside the likes of Steve Finn, Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and Graham Onions – playing with those guys I was just trying my best to impress.”

The whole month-long tour was an eye-opener for Foakes, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on February 15.

“In my career I have so far had limited first-class experience, so it was a big step up for me with the EPP. Before we left we had the hardest week’s training of my life at Loughborough.

“When I got to India I was curious to see what was different, but once we got there I thought I could handle that challenge and it was good to be in that environment.

“It was very intense with very focused training sessions. With a month-long tour it can drag and you take training easier, but there was none of that, which was good from my point of view.

“I was facing some of the quickest bowlers in the country in Stuart Meaker and Jade Dernbach, which was a good challenge for me.”

Now Foakes, who was told of his selection for the forthcoming one-day series while in India, is preparing for the next challenge – a third visit to Australia inside a year, but this time with the England Lions.

“I have been to Australia twice before and the conditions over there are unbelievable to play in, and this tour should be the best time to go there and bat. When we went there in their off-season the wickets were okay, but when we were there before they were flat.

“If I could choose a wicket to bat on I would choose an Australian one because they are flat and the ball comes onto the bat nicely.”

Foakes, although fully aware of the opportunities that lie ahead should he enjoy a successful tour, is not setting himself any specific targets.

“I try not to think about targets but just trying to prepare myself as well as I can in my training. I have got my basic game and want to add bits to it.

“Whenever you play you want to do well. It doesn’t matter whether it is a Saturday game for your club or you are playing for the Lions, but if I do well for the Lions it will stand me in good stead for the future.

“Joe Root had one good season in first-class cricket and then did well for the Lions.

“He has taken his chances and he has made that transition well. If it happened to him there is no reason why it can’t happen to others.

“I just need to focus on my game and hopefully let other stuff take care of itself.”

Although involved in the England set-up Foakes’ first-team opportunities as a wicket-keeper-batsman at Essex, where he is halfway through a two-year contract, are limited by the presence of James Foster behind the stumps.

“With James Foster being captain I am not going to be able to play as a keeper, but as long as I bat well and get chances and I work on my keeping with (coach) Barry Hyam and carry on improving and I am getting experience as a batsman, I don’t see a problem.

“I would like to get into the side as a batsman and do as well as I can and then when Fozzie retires I will get my chance.”

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