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Oliver's rapid rise rewarded

Big-hitting batsman Richard Oliver’s startling rise to prominence has earned him a contract with Worcestershire until the end of next season.

Oliver’s most senior cricket before this year was playing for Minor County side Shropshire, whom he now captains.

However, Worcestershire director of cricket Steve Rhodes gave the 24-year-old left-hander a chance in the NatWest T20 Blast with outstanding results for the Rapids.

After decent innings versus Durham Jets and Lancashire Lightning, Oliver hit 77 against defending champions Northants Steelbacks last week.

Rhodes said: "Richard has been making a convincing case to be given a contract and showing what a good player he is.

"I think he and Moeen Ali enjoy batting with each other and complement each other.

"What has impressed me is that he hasn't looked out of place and he has got a good cricketing brain. I've been really pleased with the way he has played.

"He has come from Shropshire, he has played league cricket where he has got a couple of double-hundreds and not many people do that.

"We gave him the opportunity to impress in the second XI and he got two hundreds in two days and then had another for Shropshire.

"His scoring had been heavy and he deserved an opportunity. We had the basis of 10 good players in the T20 and it was a case of we could afford to play him in that XI.

"We had plenty of batsmen and bowlers and it enabled us to give him a go at the top of the order.

Richard Oliver falls for 34 versus Lancashire in his second NatWest T20 Blast innings. He hit 77 against Northants in his fourth

"What he does do is hit the ball in some funny areas. He's got a very good eye, he times the ball and can hit the ball some distance.

"He has seen this as a fantastic opportunity to impress and, at the end of the day, what he wanted was a contract."

Oliver, who has also been playing league cricket and coaching at Reigate, said: "Worcestershire got an injury, I came in for the week in the second XI and got a couple of scores and it was a case of 'we'll ask him back again.'

"I got another couple of scores and again it was 'we'll ask him back again' and then it was 'six weeks later, we'll give you a yes or a no.'

"That's all you can do. I could have gone duck-duck-duck and they might have said 'don't bother coming back' after two weeks, who knows?

"That's the way it went and I'm ecstatic to be here."

He added: "I used to come down to New Road as a kid and watch a few games. As a kid, you go around and watch professional cricket and you just aspire to want to do that everyday of the week.

"You never give up hope. You see a lot of the guys coming into the game peaking in their late 20s, early 30s these days.

"It might be a case of closing the door on yourself more than anything because I don't think any counties close the door on any players.

"As long as you've got the belief in yourself to keep going it doesn't matter if you are 22, 24, 30 whatever.

"At the end of the day if you've got the hunger to do it and work on your game hard enough, there is no reason why you won't be given a chance as long as you are bashing the door down in league cricket and Minor Counties."

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