Jack Haynes is relishing the prospect of being part of the ICC Under-19 World Cup after flying out to South Africa today (Friday) to start preparations for the tournament.
The Worcestershire batsman was told of his inclusion in the Young Lions squad by Under-19s Head Coach Jon Lewis on the final day of the Tri-Series in the Caribbean involving West Indies and Sri Lanka.
Now, after a short spell back at home for the festive season, Haynes and the England squad and coaches are launching the countdown to the opening group fixture – against the Windies at Kimberley on January 20.
Haynes said: “It is special to be part of the World Cup squad and day by day it is getting more and more exciting now.
“We go on Friday (January 3) and I think we’ve got a pretty good team and maybe we can do something special which will be brilliant.
“We had our individual meetings on the last day of our trip to Antigua and found out then if we had made it or not so it was pretty exciting.
“We’ve had a few days at home and now we’re all off again. It is pretty manic but obviously very good.”
Haynes believes the experiences England gained on the wickets in the West Indies will stand them in good stead for the challenges ahead.
He said: “We played in the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium for the first few games and the wickets were quite tough to bat on.
“As a batting group, we found it very challenging, very different to what we face in English conditions.
“You looked upon 150-160 as a par score instead of in England when you are probably looking at 250-260 as a par score.
“We had to fairly quickly adapt to that and then we got better and better throughout the trip.
“Sometimes it will only take two or three balls and sometimes it will take a couple of overs to work out what the pitch is like and what is a good score.
“But the quickest team to react and find out what a good score is the team who have got the best chance of winning.
“As a batting group, there is a bit to learn, and it was a good learning experience before the World Cup.”
Haynes made several useful contributions in helping England reach the final before losing to Sri Lanka whom they had beaten in the final group game two days previously.
He said: “We were pretty gutted to lose the final. We felt we got better and better while we were out there and we managed to beat them twice.
“It was 2-1 to us going into the final and we just didn’t quite play our best cricket in the final.
“But we will take confidence from knowing we can beat these teams from different countries on different surfaces to those what we know. We know on our day we can beat anyone.
“Personally I was a bit disappointed not to have scored as many runs as I could have done.
“I probably had too many starts again, too many 20s and 30s, and that is definitely something I will look to improve on going to the World Cup and hopefully I can make big contributions that will win us games.”
England’s group comprises the West Indies, Australia and Nigeria in the battle to reach the knockout stages.
He said: “It was nice to get a look at the West Indies. They beat us in the first game but we came back to beat them and, if we play our best cricket, hopefully we can beat them in the World Cup
“Hopefully we’ve got a fairly decent chance of qualifying through to the knockout stages.”
Haynes previous experience of South Africa was with Malvern College.
He said: “I went on a school tour about four years with Malvern College to Cape Town and played a few games there.
“We are in a different part of the country and we are based in Kimberley and Pretoria and hopefully Potchefstroom if we get to the knockout stages.
“I think being away in the warm weather in Antigua is going to help us.”
Haynes has spoken with Blackfinch New Road team-mates Dillon Pennington and Adam Finch about their Under-19 World Cup experiences in New Zealand two winters ago.
It was a proud moment for the County to see the pair share the new ball on several occasions.
Haynes said: “Dill and Finchy are quite good mates and I’ve chatted to them about what it is like and they loved it.
“It is very exciting and it is something I’ve not experienced before, the hype of a major tournament.
“It is all going to help me in the longer run to become a better player and put performances in for Worcestershire during the summer hopefully.”