The day before the England Under-19 team took on their Indian counterparts at the Indira Gandhi Municipal Corporation Ground at Vijayawada, the two teams had to endure a seven hour long ride by bus from Hyderabad. Just half an hour after the bus left Hyderabad, the air conditioner sputtered, hissed and completely stopped working. Sitting in a rather stuffy and uncomfortable bus, I found myself sitting next to Kent left arm spinner Robert Ferley. When the going gets tough, the tough often get cranky. On this occasion however, Ferley was at his charming best, spinning tales about the adventures he and his mates had had back home. The one thing he let slip however, was the fact that he did not look forward to bowling left arm spin on flat Indian wickets and following that up with another long bus ride on his 19th birthday.
As it turned out, the 4th of February 2001, Ferley's 19th birthday turned out to be a memorable one as he picked up 4/32 and spun England to a good win. Speaking to CricInfo soon after his effort, the chirpy lad was excitement personified.
"I'm sure I'm going to remember this birthday for a long while to come. Mind you, I still don't fancy the seven hour journey back to Hyderabad. But yes, it was a good day on the field for England. For me personally too, it was good to make a contribution," began Ferley.
Although he bowled with tremendous confidence and control, at times it looked like England's score of 249 was not going to be enough. "We thought 250 was 10 or 20 short. But even with 250 on the board we knew we had a good chance of winning. It's not that easy to chase a target if the bowlers keep the ball on a good line and length," admitted Ferley.
Although Ferley was easily the pick of the England spinners on the tour, he was picked to play just one `Test' and did not even get a bowl in the first One-Dayer. Was he nervous that he might once again be relegated to the outfield? "I spoke to the captain, Ian Bell, and he said he'd probably bowl me through for ten overs. All I was trying to do really was create a bit of pressure. If I bowled full, I could only be hit straight down the ground. That's exactly what I did."
In fact, Ferley managed to create enough pressure to snare two batsmen in as many deliveries. On a hat-trick, Ferley did not get excited in the least. Even the customary crowding of batsmen with close in fielders was not resorted to. "Hat-trick balls in One-Day matches are not really relevant at all. I was just trying to bowl another dot ball. We didn't want to give away runs and so I couldn't really change my field too much," Ferley explained, displaying a great deal of maturity for a lad of his years.
Having proven his worth amply in all departments of the game on this gruelling tour of India, Ferley will return to Kent with a wealth of experience. However, the lad is not resting on his laurels. On his return, Ferley is keen to spend time talking spin bowling with one of his idols. "Derek Underwood is definitely a hero of mine although I bowl a bit differently. He bowled it a bit quicker. He's someone who I haven't really had the opportunity to speak with that much. Perhaps in the next year I'll get a chance to speak to him a bit more about the art of spin bowling."
Armed with the experience gained from the tour of India, an extremely healthy attitude to the game and no doubt words of wisdom from Underwood, this young man is bound to make waves for Kent, and hopefully for Ferley, England as well, in the years to come.
England Under-19s in India Youth Test Series
England Under-19s in India Youth ODI Series
England Under-19s tour of India