England Lions v West Indians, Northampton, 1st day May 10, 2012

Brooks continues whirlwind progress

Jack Brooks' professional career made a late start. He did not emerge from village cricket until he was 20 and his first-class debut took another four years to arrive. Since then, however, he has progressed to the extent that he is among the next pack of fast bowlers vying to push his international credentials.

He is making a decent fist of it, too, with figures of 3 for 23 on the opening day for England Lions against the West Indians to follow a productive start to the season for Northamptonshire which has included two five-wicket hauls in the County Championship.

"It's been a bit of a whirlwind couple of years," he said. "I've enjoyed every last minute, and I hope the ride upwards hasn't finished yet and I can keep on going."

He has a simple explanation as to why it took him until well into his 20s to develop a cricket career. "I just wasn't very good when I was younger," he said. "Physically, mentally - certainly mentally - I wasn't ready for it. I still had the mentality of a club cricketer. I'm still a glorified club cricketer now. But I've worked really hard on my game and my fitness with a few gentle pushes along the way from coaches who've told me to start believing in my ability."

Brooks made good use of his home ground knowledge and was even happy to bowl into a strong wind at his favoured Lynn Wilson End for all of his 13 overs as he claimed the scalps of Adrian Barath, Kirk Edwards and Kemar Roach. "I've always preferred that end even though I was running into a massive gale all day which wasn't ideal," he said. "But I'm happy there, and I've never had choice of ends here whoever I'm bowling with."

The intensity of England Lions cricket is a world away from the scene he became used to for his village side Tiddington, who play in the Cherwell League in Oxfordshire, but Brooks remains honest to his roots and continues to enjoy the game even though the rewards are now far more serious.

"It's still turn out for your village side on a Saturday then turn up on a Sunday lunchtime, have a few pints and go out and chuck a ball around. It was all good fun, and I still have the same mentality when I play in that I still enjoy my game. It's just a bit more intense these days."

Intensity is something that the West Indians have lacked in the early stages of this tour, perhaps understandably given the weather they have encountered. It was still hands-in-pockets temperatures for them in the field but it is the form of the batting that is the biggest concern. Darren Bravo was the main exception on the opening day in Northampton with 51 and he insisted that the squad remains confident that it can find their feet ahead of the opening Test at Lord's next Thursday.

"It's not a concern, it's just a matter of us continuing to believe in ourselves and learn where we went wrong," he said. "Hopefully we can put a good score on the board in the second innings. The guys are really happy we were able to get some play."

At least Bravo, who can also draw on his experience with Nottinghamshire last season, will head into the Test series with a score under his belt in testing conditions. "They are a good bowling line up, the ball was moving around and it was quite difficult at the start and in fact all the way through the innings. It was important I backed my ability and express myself in the best possible way."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo