THORNBURY and Gloucestershire Academy cricketer Tom Shrewsbury is relishing the opportunity to play in South Africa with England under-19s.
Shrewsbury, who turns 18 tomorrow, was due to fly out with the squad for the Test and One-Day International series today and is still coming to terms with his international call-up.
After a successful two-day trial in the summer, the off-spinner was selected in the England Development Programme at the start of the winter, where he attended a training camp in Loughborough and did enough to convince the selectors to take him on tour.
England will play at Test ground Sahara Park Newlands in Cape Town in the first four-day match against South Africa, starting on January 27, with the second and final game of the series at Boland Park in Paarl on February 3 before the five-game one-day series starts on February 13.
Shrewsbury, who is from Cornwall but currently boarding at Wycliffe College, has been to South Africa before on an under-13s schoolboy tour and is excited to be heading back with England.
He said: “When I got the phone call to say I was selected I was over the moon. I still can’t believe it.
“I’ve got some experience of the pitches and the heat and I’m really looking forward to going back there. It will be a challenge but I enjoy challenges.
“The next step with England will be matches in the summer against Pakistan and Bangladesh. Next year is the under-19 World Cup and I will still be able to go to that, so my ambition is to get into that.”
Gloucestershire were tipped off about Shrewsbury by his coach in Cornwall and he was selected for the academy three years ago.
With director of cricket John Bracewell keen to give youngsters a chance, Shrewsbury is hoping to make his breakthrough on the county cricket circuit next season after playing some games for the seconds last year and unexpectedly scooping the Academy Player of the Year award.
“There were a few lads in the year above so I thought one of them would get it, but I’m very happy with it and proud of myself,” he said of the award.
“I’m happy with the way it’s going. I’d like to do well in the seconds, hopefully get noticed and get the odd game for the firsts.”
Shrewsbury is hoping to play for Thornbury again next season after the wet summer limited him to five appearances in the West of England Premier League Premier Two last year, but he impressed by taking eight wickets at 18 apiece.
He also benefited from the guidance of former England off-spinner David Allen, who is president of both Thornbury and Gloucestershire and played a key role in taking Shrewsbury to the club.
“It was nice to have someone at the games to give me encouragement and that extra experience on the sidelines,” said Shrewsbury.
“He’s such a nice chap, he made it a lot easier. It’s nice to know you’re being coached by a former England player – not many can say that.
“They’re a really good bunch of lads. I really enjoyed being with them, it was a good atmosphere and a good standard of cricket, so it was a good challenge.”
Shrewsbury’s international call-up was also a proud moment for everyone connected with Thornbury, coming just three years after the club’s youth product Chris Dent was selected for England under-19s and signed a professional deal with Gloucestershire.
Captain Richard Trotman said: “It’s excellent and keeps Thornbury on the map. It wasn’t long ago that Chris was doing it so it’s great to see, and part of what the club is about is the youth set-up.”
“He (Shrewsbury) was trusted to improve with us and our link with Gloucestershire paid off. He’s a very good bowler.”