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My winter in Australia

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Last year will go down as one of my most enjoyable. I signed my first professional contract, played almost a full season for Derbyshire, won awards and to top it off spent three months at the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy in Adelaide.

The intense fitness training in Australia was strangely enjoyable and I’m sure I speak for all the lads when I say it has been beneficial not only on a physical level but a mental one too.

Preparing yourself for a tough cardio session is no easy task, let alone in 35 degree heat, but being able to do this consistently, week in week out, can only make us tougher for it.

I played my grade cricket for Prospect Pirates and after the first game the lads were beginning to think they had had the luck of the DLCA draft this year when I scored 72 and took five wickets. Five weeks on and I hadn't taken another wicket or scored a run - thankfully they are a very understanding bunch.

I was involved in one of the best games of cricket I have played for a long time when we took on West Torrens.

On paper we were the underdogs as they had a strengthened side with the likes of Aiden Blizzard and other state and Test cricketers.

Their first six overs went for 60 as James Smith, a South Australia cricketer, hit the ball to all parts. We dragged it back with some tight middle innings overs and they finished with 239 from 50 overs.

We have been perceived as one of the weaker grade sides in recent years and I could sense an over-confidence from the Torrens lads that they had already won.

We started well but after a few ups and downs it came to the last few overs. There were stages of heated confrontation on the pitch, frustration off it and a nervousness that couldn’t be hidden as we watched our lower order tick off the runs.

We made it over the line in the last over with a four straight over the head of another of their South Australia bowlers and the satisfaction of this burst from everyone watching as the lads erupted. The shaking from nerves turned to an overwhelming boost of adrenaline.

The passion that went into singing the team song after the match was so intense my body erupted with goosebumps. You could tell how much it meant to everyone, not only those playing but from the juniors right up to the senior members of the club.

"Hearts to hearts and hands to hands, beneath maroon and white we stand..."

The last couple of months have brought about many tough challenges and experiences, none more so than the three day trip to the Outback.

A 4.30am alarm to travel four hours to the Southern Flinders Ranges was just the beginning of a mentally and physically challenging few days.

Over the next few days we walked and walked and walked up and down mountains with the occasional stop for water and food from our army ration packs.

As we reached the top of our first mountain climb it became more apparent that we were literally in the middle of nowhere. We slept on a dried out river bed in swags and sleeping bags and settled into our first night in the Outback around a fire with endless talk about the abundance of dangerous insects Australia has to offer.

No sooner had we started the conversation when a Redback spider crept along the log we were sat on. Safe to say not everyone got a good night's sleep.

The morning came and nature called for a number of the lads. Let's just say no one will be able to take away the eventful 20 minutes Leicestershire’s Greg Smith and I experienced together. All dignity was lost but we grew much closer friends as a result.

The Outback experience was one that I will never forget and I’m sure I speak for the rest of the group. We got to see some amazing scenery and most noticeably for me the breathtaking skies pleasantly congested with millions of stars.

Not only did we learn so much about Australia, due to the challenging nature of the trip, it was three days that helped everyone learn something about themselves.

This blog was originally published on the Darren Lehmann Cricket Academy website where Ross Whiteley spent time over the winter.