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Brooks ready to share experience

Northants Cricket

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Jack Brooks is still keen to learn from senior figures but, after an educational winter in the England set-up, is happy to pass on advice to Northamptonshire’s youngsters.

In December Brooks revealed how he had turned to Northants’ experienced seamers Chaminda Vaas and Andrew Hall for help, aiding his 43 LV= County Championship wickets in just nine games last year.

Having recovered from a back injury that ended his season early, the 27-year-old paceman had been rewarded for these returns with a late call-up to the England Performance Programme squad last October.

During January and February Brooks went to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka with England Lions, whom he also played for against the senior England side in a one-day match at Abu Dhabi.

Brooks told ecb.co.uk that his selection for the Bangladesh tour, where he encountered “alien conditions completely”, was the highlight of his winter.

Jack Brooks

Jack Brooks prepares to face England in Abu Dhabi. Although the Lions lost heavily, Brooks told ecb.co.uk: "It was a great experience."

“I’d been to India for a couple of weeks, but Bangladesh was a completely different animal,” he explained.

“To be honest the pitches weren’t as bad as maybe we were expecting, but they still weren’t particularly helpful for fast bowlers.

“Obviously your skill levels have got to be so much higher. You can’t just run in and hit the pitch hard every ball.

“You’ve got to mix it up with slower balls and cutters and things. So I worked a lot on that in training. I probably did a lot better than I thought I would to be honest.”

Perhaps the sharpest learning curve of Brooks’ winter was the 50-over game against England, who warmed up for the one-day internationals versus Pakistan with a seven-wicket win.

The Lions could muster only 96 and their senior counterparts reached a contrived target of 230 with 25 balls to spare.

“We’d been facing good spinners all winter and we got rock and rolled by probably the best seam attack in the world,” Brooks reflected.

“It was a great experience that game. We obviously didn’t do as well as we would have liked, but it was a great showcase for some of the guys for the England selectors including Andy Flower.”

Brooks was the oldest member of the EPP squad, with only fellow seamer Boyd Rankin the same age as him.

Brooks, a village cricketer until the age of 20 who made his senior debut only in 2009, said: “It felt strange walking into a changing room and being the eldest in there. Hadn’t done that since I was a kid I don’t think.

“I’m only 27, yet I was surrounded by 21-23-year-olds. I felt like a bit of a granddad, but I was there for a reason.

“I thought maybe, if I put the right kind of performances in and someone gets injured, then someone’s got to step up.

“So, at 27, I don’t think I’m too old. I’m in the set-up now and could be around for a couple of years hopefully if I put the performances in.”

Such optimism reflects Brooks’ evident self-confidence, making him ready - after 75 competitive matches - to share his experience.

However, he is still eager to learn from the likes of Vaas and Hall, his county captain, who respectively took 761 and 143 international wickets.

“Since the winter, if any of the academy guys or younger guys want to speak to me then that’s fine.

Jack Brooks & Boyd Rankin

At 27, Brooks was the oldest member of the England Performance Programme squad with only Boyd Rankin, back, the same age as him

“I’ve got a little bit more knowledge of the game now and I’m quite happy to hand on advice.

“It helps me having two of the more experienced cricketers, especially someone like Chaminda who has done everything in the game. He’s got God knows how many bowling world records.

“You can only learn off people like that. It’s important for me to pick their brains in training and the changing room.”

Vaas, Hall and Brooks were part of one of the most potent attacks in Division Two of the championship last year.

Having finished one point behind the promotion places for the second time in three years, Northants are desperate not to miss out again.

“It was such a frustrating finish last season, to miss out by a point again,” Brooks said.

“For me to be playing a part all season then to watch it unfold, because I was injured for the last six weeks, it was very frustrating. It wasn’t easy for me to watch the guys stuttering, stumbling through the games.

“But we’ve got to be more consistent for the whole season. We were very, very good for the first six weeks and quite poor for the last six weeks. It evens out over the season, but the position we were in we should never have thrown away promotion really.”

Northants, who lost their opening championship contest at Derbyshire by 202 runs and host Kent from today, have largely retained last year’s playing staff.

Left-arm seamer David Lucas’ departure to Worcestershire is perhaps the biggest loss, although the release of opening batsman Mal Loye is another significant change.

However, batsman Kyle Coetzer, seamer Sam Sweeney and left-arm spinner Con de Lange have come in.

“We’ve still got a very good squad this year, a little bit more balance maybe. We’ve lost Dave Lucas, who is an experienced seam bowler so somebody else will have to step up, come into his shoes,” Brooks added.

“Hopefully, if we get the start we did last year, we can learn from our mistakes try and have promotion sewn up before the end of the season really.”

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