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March 29, 2013

County cricket

Excited by Worcestershire's batting guns

Jack Shantry
'I'm coming' - Thilan Samaraweera arrives as the overseas player  © AFP
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First things first, apologies that this column was so late in coming. I have found that, whilst writing for ESPNcricinfo is a great honour, it comes with attendant pressures merely by association with such a prestigious website. Every time I sit to write I imagine behind me a pacing Harsha Bhogle, dressed as a headmaster, cane in hand, with the demeanour of Orwell's O'Brien in 1984, admonishing me for my poor prose and with the very real threat of Room 101 should I fall short of his exacting standards.

Inside that room I would probably find the laser-leveled batsman's paradise that is currently hosting the third Test between New Zealand and England. For me the series has proved disappointing so far, in no small part due to the placid nature of the pitches. I have heard journalists and former players comment that had it not been for rain there might well have been results in both matches, but for me the series has been dominated too much by the bat.

Having said that, it does not take away the fantastic effort of Nick Compton, who scored his maiden Test century in the Wellington Test. Compo is someone I've bowled against a lot in county cricket, and he is the player who values his wicket the highest. From my experience and speaking to fellow professionals, he has all the shots in the book too, but chooses to play within himself and is willing to bat long periods of time to accumulate his runs, which is not in keeping with the spirit of the time in county cricket. (The pacing Bhogle says I should've said Zeitgeist instead of 'spirit of the time'.)

As I type, friendlies are being played up and down the country in numerous varieties of inclement weather. Inswingers in the sleet has an undeniable je ne sais quoi, and Worcestershire's prescient decision not to send us to Barbados and instead acclimatise fully to England's early season conditions can only be applauded.

A sopping wet Graeme Cessford has just entered my room (don't worry this isn't going to go all Fifty Shade of Grey) after returning from a heavy downpour in Taunton where our first pre-season game was due to take place. Graeme has come into professional cricket in unusual circumstances. He was picked up from the RAF and impressed in second team games last year, and he will offer us explosive pace this season. Whilst he has never had to cope with the pressure of having 'a Messerschmitt up his arse' a la fellow cricketer-cum-pilot Keith Miller it will be interesting to see how his military background plays a part in his getting accustomed to professional sport. One feels it can only be a positive.

We've also signed Thilan Samaraweera as our overseas player for the season, with New Zealand allrounder Jacob Oram joining us for the T20. Samaraweera has an outstanding Test average and we are all looking forward to him arriving, and the whole world knows Oram's match-winning ability with bat and ball in the shortest format. Seeing Oram and Gareth Andrew batting together will be a fearful sight for many opposition bowlers, and it could see a few supporters reaching for the hard hats. I'm entering my fifth season with the club and this looks like our most explosive batting line-up since I joined, especially when you consider the aggressive talents of Moeen Ali and Alexei Kervezee.

Writing this column feels a lot like playing my first few games for Worcestershire. Surrounded by fine professionals whose work I have read and enjoyed, I am a little unsure as to whether my ability merits the platform it is receiving. In my debut with the cricket I was fortunate to play in a winning performance against Essex, and claimed Ravi Bopara as my first wicket. I'm not sure as to the literary equivalent of a wicket, certainly there would be fewer high-fives and bum taps. Possibly a bum tap from Mariella Frostrup. Who could say no to that? (Harsha is shaking his head disapprovingly).

Jack Shantry is a seam bowler for Worcestershire. He tweets here

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Posted by tpjpower on (March 30, 2013, 15:20 GMT)

Really enjoyed this. I do hope it will become a regular column. Most encouraging to see there are still young, professional sportsmen capable of writing articles which exhibit clarity of thought, insightfulness and a good dose of humour. Well done, Jack.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jack Shantry
Jack Shantry is a 25-year-old left-arm seamer for Worcestershire CCC. He was born in Shrewsbury and studied English Language at Manchester University before making his debut in 2009. He has loved every minute of it and shared a dressing room with Saeed Ajmal, Sanath Jayasuriya and Alan Richardson. @jackshantry

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