A young, Bahrain-born English expatriate cricketer, who has represented the kingdom in international competitions, helped lead his team to their second successive West of England Premier Cricket League title earlier this month.
21-year-old fast bowler George Axtell, who studied at St. Christopher’s School and is currently a final-year business student at Bath University, produced an inspired spell, taking three wickets for just 21 runs off his 10 overs to help Bath Cricket Club (317 for eight off 50 overs) beat Taunton Deane (206 all out in 44.5 overs) by 111 runs on the final day of the league and pip traditional rivals Potterne Cricket Club on points to clinch the trophy for the second year running.
“It was nice to be able to help the team win the competition,” Axtell, who has played for the Bahrain under-19 team as well as the senior side, told the GDN modestly.
Axtell did more than just ‘help’ his side, though: the fast bowler proved instrumental in Bath’s march to title glory, taking 19 wickets at an average of just 8.53 runs per scalp, an economy rate of 3.10 runs per over and best bowling figures of five for 13.
The highly-competitive 10-team league, featuring club sides from Wiltshire, Somerset and Gloucestershire, sees players from the county circuit as well as England internationals – and top players from other countries as well – taking part in it and is well-regarded.
One of Axtell’s first few wickets at the start of the league – which is a 50-over competition but played in whites with a red ball – was Tom Banton, the hard-hitting right-hander who has played six T20Is for England and is in high demand in domestic T20 leagues around the world.
“I induced an edge from him that flew to gully,” Axtell laughed.
“Getting that wicket was a good feeling.”
Axtell took to cricket from a very young age, thanks to father David, a regular for Bahraini club team, the Awali Camels, who moved to the kingdom with his family 28 years ago.
“I fell in love with the game as a small boy because of my father and my grandfather,” Axtell, whose family is from Nottingham, explained.
That early passion eventually translated into a talent so brimming with promise that Axtell was drafted, at age 14, into the Bahrain under-19 team for the U-19 Asia Cup qualifiers in 2017.
And he impressed the selectors so much that he found himself in another under-19 squad the next year, this time heading to the International Cricket Council (ICC) U-19 World Cup qualifiers.
Last year, Axtell got his first taste of international cricket with the senior team when he played for Bahrain in the 2022 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifier in Oman.
“That was a big deal, getting selected for a tournament which featured Ireland, the UAE and Oman, along with other teams with the prospect of being able to qualify for the World Cup!” Axtell exclaimed.
“Unfortunately, I got Covid-19 just before the tournament started so I missed the first few matches.”
Axtell eventually made his debut against the Philippines and immediately impressed everyone, although he didn’t pick up a wicket, returning figures of none for 25 off his four overs as Bahrain won by 91 runs.
In Bahrain’s next game against Canada, Axtell finally got his first international wicket, trapping opener Matthew Spoors leg-before for two to give the kingdom’s team an early breakthrough as they sought to defend a sub-par total of 131 off 20 overs.
Bahrain eventually lost that game by seven wickets but Axtell had made his mark by being involved in all three wickets to fall as he took two catches, including one that was called the “catch of the tournament” by TV commentators.
“It was nice to hear that,” Axtell said.
“But it was nicer to have contributed to the team’s cause in some small manner.
“And it was great to be part of the Bahrain team. I would love to play for the kingdom again but who knows what the future holds.”