A YOUNG cricketer from Stockton Heath will play for England next month in a series of matches in South Africa.
Rob Jones is one of 18 boys chosen from the England Development U17s to represent the country against eight South African teams.
The 17-year-old, who is studying BTEC Performance and Excellence Level 3 at Priestley, will be away for 22 days. “I always played just because I love the game,” said Rob. “I was always able to get runs and take wickets, but I never thought I’d be where I am today playing for England.”
The England Development team head out on February 10 and on their non-match days, which will start at 7.45am, they will be expected to complete six hours of training and two hours of college work.
It is the second foreign tour for Rob who played in India last year where he was named man of the match for his performance in the Cricket Club of India stadium after taking four for 29 off 10 overs.
“India was a fantastic experience and I would go back again tomorrow,” he said. “We spent time helping underprivileged children who lived in the slums and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
“I’m just trying to maximise all the opportunities that are given to me at this stage.”
Rob started playing for Stretton Cricket Club when he was seven after taking up the sport a year earlier with his dad, Peter.
By 11 he was playing with the seniors at Stretton and already had two years under his belt representing Cheshire.
His talent and leadership qualities shone through and Rob was asked to captain the North of England team at the Bunbury Festival, an event that has been responsible for discovering many England internationals over the past 26 years.
“I think I was picked out for captain because I was considered a natural leader and I understand the game well,” he said.
“I play hard and competitively and really like to get in the batsmen’s faces to let them know I am there.”
Out of the 56 boys who played at the Bunbury Festival Rob was picked for a squad of 12 to enter the England development programme.
This has allowed him to train with the likes of Mark Ramprakash and Michael Vaughan and he has since played 12th man for Lancashire where he took to the pitch against Paul Collingwood.
“He’s someone I’ve looked up to so it was an amazing experience,” said Rob.
“My next goal is to play for the under 19s in the World Cup in 2014, but ultimately I want to play for England.”