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News

Sam Hain 'made peace' with idea England chance might never come

Hain marked international debut with 89 off 82 after prolific domestic form finally rewarded

Cameron Ponsonby
24-Sep-2023
Sam Hain produced a half-century on his England debut, England vs Ireland, 2nd ODI, Trent Bridge, September 23, 2023

Sam Hain produced a half-century on his England debut  •  Getty Images

Every generation has a cricketer that is the best of the bunch to never play for England. A decade ago it was James Hildreth, now it's Sam Northeast, but tomorrow it will never be Sam Hain.
Having "made peace" with the idea that his chance for England may never come, Hain, 28, scored a fluent 89 off 82 balls on ODI, making a strong impression as he looks to force his way into the international set-up Dawid Malan style. Safe in the knowledge that he's not starting as first-choice, but aware that as long as the runs flow, so too will the opportunities.
"I know how good English cricket is," said Hain, who moved to the UK from Australia at 16 to sign for Warwickshire.
"The depth is unbelievable. I actually made peace that I might never, ever get the chance but that doesn't mean I lacked ambition. When I was younger, I probably searched for playing for England too much. And it took me away from the real process of things and the journey that I've been on over the last 10 years. I'm just happy to get a chance.
"The last few years I guess I've tried to find a reason why I play [and] it's because I really love it. It's why I started, so I just find that over the years it's just helped me ride the highs and lows a little easier."
The much touted statistic that follows Hain around is his record-breaking List A average that sits at 58.56. According to the spreadsheets, this man is the best in the country at this. And yet England never gave him a go until now.
Simply put, this was because cricket's old adage that it's "not how, but how many" when it comes to run-scoring is obsolete. A statement of received wisdom that, in terms of accuracy, sits somewhere alongside the earth being flat and your mum thinking you'll drown immediately if you get into a swimming pool less than half-an-hour after eating a biscuit.
It's a falsehood that Hain knows all too well, with the quantity of runs coming from his bat across his career never being the issue, but instead the quality of them. He went undrafted in the first two Hundred drafts despite his reputation as a borderline white-ball phenom, and it was because of a pedestrian T20 strike rate that sat at 126 until the end of 2020. In his own words, the omission was a "kick up the backside" and spurred the change in approach that was the first brick in the wall towards an England debut.
"That forced my hand a little bit," Hain said, reflecting on his change in approach when at the crease. "To actually delve into my game more so than ever."
Hain has always had a 360 game, he just used to be more circumspect in its adoption. Now, and more to the point, for a number of years, those shackles have gone. Nevertheless, it is somewhat of an oddity that Hain, as the Patron Saint of the Forgotten Format, earnt his ODI debut on the back of his change in T20 form. The days of the List A to ODI pipeline existing in England are long gone. Hain, even with - or more accurately, because - of his remarkable run-scoring in List A cricket has seen opportunities in the format dry-up.
"We don't actually play a lot of 50-over cricket if you're involved in the Hundred," said Hain, who has played just five List A matches in the last four years. "And you actually forget how much time there is to bat."
Thankfully for Hain, he remembered in time to turn what had been a nervy, stuttering start of just one run from his first 11 deliveries, into a fluent innings that carried England to 300 and beyond.
While on 1, Hain slashed a ball that flew through the hands of a diving backward point for two runs, and the next ball he skipped down the wicket and launched the ball for four over mid-on. On such fine margins, international careers are born.
"I tried to keep my emotion in check as much as possible," said Hain, who had the added bonus of his Australia-based dad, Bryan, being in the crowd thanks to him coincidentally being in Europe for the rugby World Cup.
"Anyone who says they're not nervous on a day like this would be lying," Hain added. "There's nerves there and that's because I really care. I really I've waited a long time for an opportunity and I am grateful for it.
"I wanted to do really well not only for my family, but for all the people that have supported me over the years. I was waking up around 12, two and four [in the morning]…probably the worst I've been. I moved over here at 16 and your international debut is something you want to try to make as memorable as possible, but I was at peace whether I scored runs or not. I just really wanted to take in the day for what it was."

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby