Rising stars: Alex Wakeley
Why he's special
A young English batsman with power, poise and a refreshing confidence against spin. For England Under-19 on the slow turners of Kuala Lumpur, he needed all three. The Northants batsman was responsible for the highpoint of a chastening tour for the English youngsters, who faced Malaysia, India and Sri Lanka. He made 108 from 140 balls against Sri Lanka and took two wickets in their reply - England's only win against either of the Test nations. Wakely followed up with two fifties against Malaysia. Aged 15, Wakely made 81 not out and 67 in the Northants 2nd XI. Last season he top scored for Bedford School with 457 runs at 50.77 and chipped in with 21 wickets but missed a number of games due to captaining England Under-17 against the European Academy.
The Bedfordshire connection
Wakely is the latest in a long line of cricketers from Bedfordshire to end up at Wantage Road. Wayne Larkins and Monty Panesar are the most illustrious. Like Alastair Cook, Wakely was educated at Bedford School and coached by the former England batsman Derek Randall.
On the Malaysian tour
"It was a tour we all needed to have because it made us appreciate how demanding Asian conditions are, physically and mentally. Cramps and dehydration were a real problem. I developed more of a game plan on the tour. I feel a lot more comfortable hitting over the top now. It's definitely the most rewarding cricket I've played."
On his hundred against Sri Lanka
"Sri Lanka had a couple of decent opening bowlers and some tight spinners. I was batting with Ben Wright, and we got into an awful mix-up when I was close to a hundred. I set off for a run, slipped and fell flat on my back halfway down the track. It was utterly surreal - lying there watching Ben run past me to sacrifice his wicket but one of the nicest gestures I've seen on a cricket field. Thankfully I repaid it with a century."
On the future
"The immediate target is to break into the Northants first team. I'm giving county cricket a real go after my A-levels. I don't plan to go to university - not straight away at least. I'm looking to keep my place with England Under-19 for the summer and for the Under-19 World Cup [in Malaysia in 2008]."
What they say
Bedford School coach, Notts and England Derek Randall "Alex has all the talent in the world, he's got every shot in the book. His signature stroke is the straight drive off the back foot - head steady, standing tall. Like Greg Chappell. But he needs to develop that inner steel. Learn to tough it out when the chips are down so you can cash in when the going's good."
Northants manager, former England allrounder David Capel "Alex is a special rough diamond. We've always considered him a very talented young batsman - especially strong vertically off back and front foot. On occasion, he did tend to step across the delivery that moves away and nick it to slip. But he's maturing fast and I'm sure the Under-19 tour helped. When that opportunity with the first team comes he's certainly good enough to shine."
This article was first published in the July issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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