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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 June 2006, 10:49 GMT 11:49 UK
Future bright for keeper Davies
By Jamie Lillywhite

England wicket-keeper Geraint Jones seldom has a day when he does not come in for criticism from someone.

Steven Davies and Mark Butcher
Davies is in his first full season as a county professional
Supporters of rival Chris Read are quick to point out every cheap dismissal or error Jones makes with the gloves.

While the debate continues, the youngster who could one day supplant them both is quietly going about the business of learning his craft with Worcestershire.

Steven Davies is only 19 but is now firmly established in the first team as both keeper and increasingly prolific batsman.

He names fellow southpaws Brian Lara and Adam Gilchrist as his batting heroes, so it's perhaps no surprise that coach Steve Rhodes describes him as "a left-handed strokemaker who times the ball beautifully".

"If it's there to hit he'll put it away for four or if not he will treat it on its merits," said Rhodes, who played 11 Tests for England.

Last winter Davies was given an opportunity to play for England A when the unfortunate Read suffered a burglary and had to return home from the tour of the West Indies.

I hope I get in the Academy again, training day-to-day with some of the best players gives you what you need to be an England player

Steven Davies

"It came as a bit of a shock. I found out on the Thursday evening and flew out on the Friday morning," Davies recalled.

"I have great memories of the hot weather and really enjoyed the standard of cricket and benefited from it.

"Playing at the higher level against people like [fast bowler] Tino Best just helps you making the next step up."

This season began with an appearance for the MCC against Notts, when he took four catches in the first innings and made 42 batting at number eight.

And last week against Gloucestershire he made his highest first-class score with a superb 192.

Rhodes, now director of cricket at New Road, has been a mentor for Davies since he was a junior and he is wary of burdening him with expectations.

"We should be guarded against going over the top, I've seen a lot of people pushed too soon or given too many big raps at an early age," he told BBC Sport.

"I'd rather see the lad quietly go about his business and put in performances because that is what will get him recognised."

But he added: "He's got tremendous talent, lots of ability and he's a great guy, easy to fit into a dressing room."

Worcestershire followers have appreciated the qualities of their young wicket-keeper since his first match for the second XI as a 15-year-old.

Geraint Jones
Jones has not scored the amount of runs expected of him recently
"It was against Hampshire at the Rose Bowl and I can remember taking two catches. I think I dropped one but I didn't feel out of my depth because I had Steve Rhodes alongside me," Davies recalls.

"It's great for me that he is coach, I've worked with him since I was 11, he knows my game inside out and gives me advice whenever I want it."

Having ousted James Pipe last year, Davies is now in his first full season as a county professional and experiencing the continuous workload of four-day and one-day cricket.

"At the moment I'm finding it all right but I have spoken to a few of the boys and apparently it gets a bit tough later in the season, so I'm ready for that."

Another ex-gloveman who has watched Davies' progress closely is Peter Moores, now head of the ECB Academy.

"He's a natural cricketer - obviously a talented batter, he plays the short ball well, plays pace well and is an accumulator of runs," said former Sussex keeper Moores.

"He's a really lovely lad, committed and keen to move forward and get better."

Davies has set himself the goal of 1,000 runs this summer, but he is not ready to talk about forcing his way into the England set-up - not yet, at least.

"I hope I get in the Academy again, this time as a full-time student," he said.

"Training day-to-day with some of the best players gives you what you need to be an England player."

One thing is certain - Davies is a fast learner.



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