Yorkshire Move to Tie Down Talented Quartet
The Yorkshire County Cricket Club is delighted to announce the retention of several of the club’s promising young players.
Keighley-born, England U19s prospect George Hill, who was influential in the Club’s U17s County Championship success last year, has penned his first professional contract for the Club, while Ed Barnes and Senior Academy duo Tom Loten and Ben Birkhead have also been rewarded with one-year extensions to their current contracts. All four players will continue to hone their skills under the tutelage of Director of Cricket Martyn Moxon and the coaching team at Emerald Headingley until the end of the 2020 season.
All-rounder Hill has been playing for the Yorkshire Academy side for the last two years. He also made his second-team debut in 2017.
“I’m unbelievably pleased,” said Hill. “It’s kind of cliched but every cricketers dream is to be able to play cricket professionally, something that I’ve loved since being a kid. To be able to fulfil that and do it as a job is just incredible.
“I’m surprised that it has come about so quickly, but both myself and my family are over the moon. I’d also like to mention Martin Speight, Head of Cricket at Sedbergh, who has coached me since I was 12. He has been hugely influential on me being where I am today.
“There’s plenty of healthy competition and we’re a close group of lads. We’re all good mates and it’s quite an exciting group of young lads coming through.
“It’s really exciting and the professional squad is quite a young squad as well. Having spent quite a bit of time with the pro staff there are no big egos and they’ve all been really welcoming, especially when you’re the younger lad coming in to the Second XI. They all made an effort to try and get to know me as quickly as possible.
“I finished my exams a couple of days ago which was a nice stress release. It was hard trying to juggle exams and cricket because it can be quite hard to switch off. Now I can just put my head down and focus on cricket for the rest of the summer.”
Director of Cricket, Moxon, said: “George Hill has signed his first professional contract, Ben Birkhead, Tom Loten and Eddie Barnes have all extended for an extra year. We’ll obviously review that going forward. It’s great news to get these young lads signed up. We feel have huge potential for the future.
“We’ve been saying all along we’re in a slight transitional period and we’ve got to give them the opportunity to develop because they’re the future of the club. We’re in a great position because we’ve got options, but it’s only potential at the moment and we won’t know what level they can reach until they’ve played a certain amount of first-team cricket. We’re very excited about the talent that these young lads have got.
“The fact Eddie went on loan to Sussex shows the progression he’s made this year, he’s been really consistent in the second team this year so far. Tom Loten did really well last year and this year but unfortunately broke his finger a few weeks ago. Hopefully it won’t be long until he’s back. Ben Birkhead has done well with the gloves and again has shown potential with the bat. George Hill has finished his exams now at Sedbergh School and we’re really excited about him because he’s shown tremendous potential both for England U19s and for us when he’s played.
“We’re obviously broadening the base as far as age group talent is concerned. Jim Love is doing a fantastic job coordinating that along with the coaches that he has at his disposal. They then come in to Ian Dews and Richard Damms and the rest of the coaches at the club. We’ve got some really exciting young cricketers around and it will be interesting to see how they develop over the next couple of years.”
Barnes, 21, debuted for the White Rose as an under 13 in 2011 and has also played under 14s, 15s and 17s cricket. Since making his Second XI debut in 2016, he has amassed 903 runs and has taken 64 wickets.
Barnes said: “I’m really happy to have put pen to paper to keep me at the club for longer. The atmosphere has been great throughout the winter and through the summer and it’s just great to be a part of it all. I feel like I’ve started the season really well and have been hitting my rhythms with bat and ball. I hope that I can continue to back up my performances and hopefully push myself into the first team frame more and more.
“I feel like I’ve learnt so much about my game during the last two years and I feel ready to keep progressing at the club. All I can do is try and take as many wickets and score as many runs as possible and hopefully the rest will take care of itself and I can contribute to winning games for Yorkshire.”
Yorkshire’s number two wicketkeeper, Halifax-born Birkhead scored 1,099 runs and claim 58 dismissals behind the stumps in all cricket for the Academy and second team in 2018.
Birkhead added: “I’m really pleased to receive a contract extension and see all the hard work pay off. Now it’s about continuing that hard work and hopefully I can contribute to some successful performances for the club.
“With the extension confirmed I can focus on contributing to the team with both the bat and the gloves. I’m delighted and proud to have signed and can’t wait to see what the next year has in store.”
A tall 20-year-old batting all-rounder from York, Loten played age-group cricket for Yorkshire under 13s, 14s and 15s before representing the Academy. He scored 790 runs and took 12 wickets in 20 appearances for the Academy in 2018.
Loten said: “I’m delighted to sign for a further year and be part of a squad that’s made me feel very welcome and is only going to get better. After a tough winters’ training I feel as though I’ve started the season well so it is nice to be rewarded for that. Once I’m back fit, I’m going to work hard to keep improving and put in some solid performances for the second team. Hopefully I’ll kick on in the second team and keep improving into next year.”