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Wardlaw gives hope to the late starters

Posted in Domestic Cricket

Iain Wardlaw

Iain Wardlaw on first-class debut for Yorkshire - in a Roses encounter no less

Cricket does very well at helping young talent progress through the game. Some players find their way to the top and some fall away, as is the cruel reality of professional sport.

It so often happens that a teenage prodigy from his local league gets his chance in the third XI and takes it, and before he knows it he’s in the big league with seniors twice his age.

By this time the hope is that scouts are watching, taking notice of the lad’s temperament, technique and decision-making. If his technique matches his stats, a channel into the county set-up is always a possibility.

With English domestic cricket’s vast scouting network, it is more likely than not that top young performers in our game will be picked up when they are still raw.

Often, however, youngsters slip the net and find themselves pursuing different careers outside the sport.

So it is satisfying to witness one of these unlucky players working at his game to such an extent that he’s now been accepted into the professional fold.

It can happen almost in an instant. On a hot July morning in Yorkshire, Headingley geared up to host a Nottinghamshire side soaring at the top of the Friends Life t20 table.

A relatively simple fixture, the press auditorium at Headingley was awash with intrigue and questions.

Ryan Sidebottom was ill and not in the squad. His replacement was a complete unknown Iain Wardlaw. After 10 minutes desperately searching for the correct spelling of his name, the journalists sat down to do their research. Who was this man?

Wardlaw, it was revealed, is a right-arm seamer who has spent the majority of his senior cricketing life at Cleckheaton in the Bradford leagues, and has only recently entered the Yorkshire set-up.

Hailing from the same club as Yorkshire captain Andrew Gale, what is interesting about Wardlaw is his age. At 26, the epithet ‘young starlet’ seems as inappropriate as calling Kevin Pietersen boring and predictable.

His success at Cleckheaton caught the eye of Yorkshire, resulting in him being offered a contract to the end of 2012. He quit his job in the accounts department of a graphic design company in the process.

This may not be as incredible as I am making out. Quite often players who missed out in their youth are snapped up further down the line to pick up their sporting careers where they left off.

But what is remarkable is Wardlaw’s immediate, almost seamless step up into the first team.

He bowled incredibly well for a debutant against Notts in returning figures of 2-17. His economy rate of 5.36 was by far the best of the bowlers, something that earned him a place in Yorkshire’s LV= County Championship clash against Lancashire three weeks later.

A Roses championship debut really is a baptism of fire, especially for someone born in Yorkshire.

His immediate impact in t20 has continued, with an overall economy of 5.82 making Wardlaw the most economic bowler in Yorkshire’s t20 history.

Of course, Wardlaw’s 11.1 total overs are relatively scant. Indeed, his championship performance against Lancashire left him with figures of 1-68.

The fact that Yorkshire’s t20 season is over for the summer also masks the predicament of sustaining his form, but it was a promising start for a player who continues to ply his trade in the local leagues.

While initially brought in as cover, Wardlaw is quickly generating interest in the Headingley press box.

Although flitting between the first and second XI, Wardlaw could well prove to hundreds of dedicated amateur cricketers that performance and patience - even at a local level - can provide the springboard for a career in the game, no matter how old you are.

Want to know what's happening at your county? Interested in how your rivals are faring? Look no further than ecb.co.uk's county-by-county page

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