Young Shropshire cricket ace Xavi Clarke is back on home soil and preparing for a busy summer after helping to blaze a trail for future England cricketers.
The 16-year-old Oswestry batsman and wrist spinner was a member of the first ever Bunbury/ECB Under 16 squad to go on an overseas tour which visited Sri Lanka recently.
And although they lost the series 3-1, Bunburys founder and cricket fanatic David English is now hoping to make the tour featuring the cream of Under 16 talent in England a regular event.
Xavi, who is a member of the Worcestershire Academy, was picked for the tour and played in all four games after his performances at the Bunbury Festival last summer which marked the 30th anniversary of the event.
David English said: “It was a stunning success and I’m really proud because it was our first ever Bunbury tour.
“I want to do it every year now. I want to take the best 14 of the Festival in the summer to tour the following March if I can get the finance. Next year I’d like to go to South Africa, then the West Indies and do a Bunbury world tour.”
Tour manager for the trip was Steve Aston, who has been involved in cricket in Shropshire for more than 40 years.
He said: “It was a really good trip and Xavi and the rest of the boys were a real credit in the way they behaved and bonded and represented English cricket.
“It was a steep learning curve with only one training session before we were straight into the action without really having time to acclimatise.
“While Sri Lanka had been together for eight weeks, the Bunburys had one training session indoors at Loughborough and so conditions were very different to what they have been used to.”
After losing the first two games, the Bunbury XI won the third game with Xavi’s skipper and fellow Worcestershire Academey member Jack Haynes leading the way with an impressive 93.
But they were beaten in the fourth game after they were asked to field first in searing heat that sapped the energy of the players, some of whom had been suffering from a sickness bug.
Steve Aston added: “The tour was a big success both on and off the field, although the results didn’t go our way. But it was a great experience for the boys and gave them an idea of what they need to do get to the next level by learning to play in all conditions.
“In any future tours, we will also look to change the itinerary so that the boys get more time to get used to conditions with a warm up game ahead of the main fixtures, and also look to play some T20 games as well as the 50 over format.”
Xavi has a busy summer ahead with cricket and GCSEs to juggle, and he has already been back in action on the cricket field.
He was a member of the Worcester Academy team alongside Dillon Pennington, who is at Wrekin College and plays for Shrewsbury, which claimed victory in the annual pre-season festival at Shrewsbury School against the 1st XIs of the hosts, Millfield School and Worksop College.
Also in action was Shropshire Under 15s and Worcestershire Satellite Academy player Peter Clarke making his first team debut for Shrewsbury School.
He made an immediate impression taking 3-32 in his 10 overs of left arm spin against Worcester Academy and then scoring 14 opening the batting. On the final day against Millfield he again scored 14 and then took an impressive 5-27.
More than 300 Bunburys have gone onto play First Class cricket since the festival was launched – and over 60 have represented England including many of the current internationals.
Pictured: from left, Xavi Clarke, Steve Aston and Jack Haynes