It’s been a big week out here in Australia, because of the Melbourne Cup – even over here in Perth, where I’m spending the winter playing for the Wanneroo Districts Cricket Club.
They did their own Melbourne Cup day at the Ascot course which is the main one in the Perth area, with all the races from Melbourne on a big screen. I went down there with a few of the Wanneroo guys and met up with the other English lads who are out here – Tom Moores, Tom Abell and Aneurin Donald on the Pathway, and also my Essex team-mate Callum Taylor who’s playing for Mount Lawley.
It’s best not to talk about how I did on the racing. Just a lot of money spent. Callum was luckier – he always seems to be pretty lucky on that sort of stuff. But I think he’d spent all his winnings by the end of the night as well.
It’s important to get the balance right out here – we’re here to learn, and for the sake of our cricket. But at the same time after such a hectic summer we need to chill out a bit as well – I’ve had some time at the beach, a bit of shopping, coffees in the city with the boys, that sort of thing.
Fortunately the cricket has been going better than the racing for me so far.
We’ve had four matches in the Western Australia Premier Cricket competition since I arrived last month. The first two were one-day games on the same weekend – I started off with 44 against Rockingham-Mandurah on the Saturday, with the bonus of taking four wickets with the ball, and then made 83 the next day when we lost to Perth CC.
The next weekend we played Melville and I made 140 – I was chuffed with that, obviously. They had a couple of familiar faces in their team, Angus Robson from Leicestershire and also Adam Voges, who got me out.
Then last weekend we started a two-day match against Bayswater-Morley. We bowled them out for 133, and although we lost a couple of quick wickets to their opening bowler Nathan Rimmington, we’ll start the second day this weekend on 83 for two – I’m 36 not out, so fingers crossed I can get a few more.
The standard is decent, as people say. Roughly county second team, but with some gun players thrown in from Shield cricket, Big Bash or even internationals.
Mitchell Johnson is part of our club at Wanneroo, and he’s come down and trained three times since I’ve been here. He does some work with the young bowlers and he’s getting himself ready for the Big Bash – I’ve faced him a couple of times in the nets which has been good, but he hasn’t bowled off his full run or anything like that. It’s been pretty cool to meet him though – he’s a lovely guy.
As well as playing for our clubs, the ECB have sorted us out to have some one-to-one coaching with a guy called Noddy Holder, who is a very well-respected coach over here. He’s worked with big names like Justin Langer and Mike Hussey, and he’s also a Wanneroo boy. I’ve had six sessions with him now and he’s a good lad – keeps things pretty simple, fine tuning really. He’s got his own cricket centre, Revolution Sports, with nets and also a gym which we’re signed into, so we train there as well.
I’ve been to Australia once before, playing for Geelong in Victoria a couple of years ago, but this is my first time in Perth and I’m loving it. Nowhere is further than 20 minutes away so I’ve seen plenty of the other English lads out here, especially Callum.
I was planning to go to Sydney this winter but Graham Thorpe, who I’ve worked with through my time with England Under-19s, rang me up late in the summer to say there was the chance to come to Perth with the other three guys – Tom, Tom and Nye – to combine club cricket with the coaching with Noddy. You don’t turn down chances like that.
It was a great way to end a really enjoyable year with Essex, having the full year in the team in all formats, getting a few hundreds, and being part of a promotion-winning team. I even took a few wickets in the white-ball stuff.
It’s exciting to think I’ll be going back to play Division One cricket in the Championship. It’s been talked about a lot for the last few years that Essex have been underachievers, and last year it was a case of ‘why don’t we really knuckle down and do it?’ Ryan ten Doeschate was a big influence on that as captain, getting a real team spirit which we’d maybe lacked in the past. I get on really well with Tendo.
I’ll be back there soon enough for another big season, but for the moment I’m loving it out here.
More than 50 talented cricketers will be reaping the benefits of playing abroad on the ECB’s International Pathway this winter, and you’ll be able to keep in touch with their progress here on ecb.co.uk.