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Who is James Coles, Sussex’s 16-year-old Bob Willis Trophy debutant?

Who Is James Coles, Sussex’s 16-Year-Old Bob Willis Trophy Debutant?
by Wisden Staff 4 minute read
James Coles (right) Credit: Magdalen College School

If you’re good enough, you’re old enough, goes the old adage, and Sussex certainly seem to be following the principle in handing 16-year-old James Coles a debut for their final Bob Willis Trophy clash against Surrey.

Coles has become Sussex’s youngest ever first-team player. Here’s everything you need to know about the young prodigy.

Who is James Coles?

The youngster, a right-handed batsman who bowls left-arm spin, is set to bat in the middle order for Sussex. He has made waves with bat in hand for Oxfordshire’s youth side and in regional representative sides, often playing above his age group. As an eight-year-old he played for South Oxfordshire District U11s and then in a Best of District U11s side that toured Exeter. In 2017 he made headlines as a 13-year-old, playing in Aston Rowant CC’s fourth team by carrying his bat for a century and taking a hat-trick in the same game.

The teenager has already picked up a bevy of awards, including the Oxford Junior Sportsman of the Year award, the Sir John ‘Jack’ Hobbs Silver Jubilee Memorial Prize for the most outstanding under 16 schoolboy cricketer in England, and the Gray-Nicolls Trophy 2019 for the year’s most improved schoolboy cricketer.

Previous winners of that last award include Mark Ramprakash, Derek Pringle, Nick Knight, Graeme Swann, Ian Bell, Tim Bresnan, and Dom Sibley.

His performances in the 2019 Bunbury Festival, where the best schoolboys aged 15 or under contest in four regional sides, were of particular note. Against the best young cricketers in the country, Coles scored 448 runs at an average of 112 from six innings, including two hundreds and two fifties. Only one other player, who had three not outs in four innings, averaged more than 50 in the tournament.

Coles led from the front as captain of the South and West side, as they won the 50-over and T20 competitions. He was unsurprisingly named Player of the Tournament. His performances earned him a spot as skipper of a combined South and West/London and East side to face West Indies U15. He duly smashed 88 off 55 balls.

The runs continued to flow as he led the same side against a combined North/Midlands XI, smashing 129 off 121 balls in the second day of play between the teams.

Coles has been similarly prolific at age group level for Oxfordshire, often playing above his years. In 2015, he represented both the Under 12s and the Under 16s, and scored a century for the Under 17 side as a 14-year-old in 2018. He made his senior debut this year, and, as you’d expect, he scored a century on debut, against Buckinghamshire.

He first made it into the Sussex pathway when he was in the U12 age group, in 2015/16, gained a place in Sussex’s academy in late 2019, and has now earned a first-team debut at the tender age of 16.

Final word

“Despite these exceptional contributions with the bat, it has been his leadership and character that has made a lasting impression. The, very short, discussions about who would be named the outstanding player at the Bunbury Festival, were centred as much around his exceptional captaincy as his batting average. Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay James, is that ten minutes after he’s been batting, you would have no idea whether he had just scored 0 or 100. If he continues in the same manner, he has a very bright future ahead of him.” – England South and West Under 15s Manager Mark Allum

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