The 2018 season was a breakthrough year for Worcestershire’s slow left arm spinner Ben Twohig.
The 20-year-old made his senior debut after several seasons of second team cricket at Blackfinch New Road.
It was a proud moment for Twohig when he received his cap off County CEO and another left armer in Matt Rawnsley at the Kia Oval.
The Dewesbury born player went onto play in a total of seven Specsavers County Championship Division One matches.
Here Twohig looks back at last summer and the challenges it provided and his goals and targets for the future in a Question and Answer session with the Worcestershire CCC website.
Question: Ben, last summer you played seven County Championship games, did it feel like a breakthrough year?
Ben Twohig: “Yes, massively. It was just everything that you want to get out of playing cricket which is playing first class cricket and then obviously you want to move onto playing at the top level but it’s that first step of actually breaking through and realising that you are actually good enough to play, and playing in Division One against top players.
“A lot of the players are playing Test cricket now. It was bittersweet because it was tough and we were on the end of results that didn’t go our way but at the same time personally you are thinking ‘this is great’ because you are playing first class cricket.”
Question: You made your debut at the Oval, a challenging start against the would be champions?
Ben Twohig: “That was nice. It was a Bank Holiday weekend and the ground was packed and it was just a good start. You could have been somewhere when it was freezing and there were 10 people there. But it was a cracking occasion and you were up against Burns, Foakes, Curran.
“It was a great four days and I really enjoyed it and on the last day we had a chance to bowl them out and it was nice to actually bowl at Burns and have a leg slip and a short leg and have a bit of freedom just to go out and bowl and that’s what you want from a debut really.”
Question: Before the start of play, you got you cap off Matt Rawnsley (Worcestershire CEO). With him being a spinner as well, that must have been quite a nice ceremony?
Ben Twohig: “It was good to get him off Matt, the new chief and a left arm spinner who had played for Worcestershire. He made a humorous speech when he gave my cap about when he was starting out. He said someone coaching him had threatened to shoot his mother if he didn’t keep his arm up when he was bowling!
“It was something I probably needed because it just settled my nerves. I’m not an uptight guy and I like to have a laugh and Matt settled me down and it made me realise it was just another game of cricket.
“It just relaxed me, it was a funny story that relaxed everyone in quite a big game and we had the better of a draw and played the better cricket.
“I did some work with Matt as well in Abu Dhabi on the pre-season tour. We bowled a lot together and he was a big help.
“Obviously during the summer, he has a lot to do on the business side of the club but he still watched a lot and just pointed things out. It was nice to have another pair of eyes watching, especially as he had bowled left arm spin.”
Question: What was the biggest difference you found from Second Eleven cricket?
Ben Twohig: “I think it is just the consistency of everything and the standard is just so much higher. The standard of the shots batsmen play is obviously better and they do it for longer periods.
“You might get someone playing in the Second Eleven who might make the best 60 you have ever seen but it’s 60, it doesn’t affect things that much, whereas Dean Elgar is not going to get 60 and get out. That’s the difference.
“What I noticed as well is you bowl a ball and it turns and bounces and it hits a batsman on the gloves but they don’t panic and just get on with the next ball whereas in the Second Eleven people will think ‘it’s spinning, we’ve got to attack or change our approach’ so you don’t have to change which means you are automatically winning.
“In the first team, players don’t change their approach if they get a delivery like that and you’ve got to work a lot harder to get them out. It’s a mindset thing because they are thinking ‘I’m better than you’ and you’ve got to think ‘well I’m better than you’ and that’s the difference where, who comes out on top, ends up being the better on that day. It’s just more of a challenge, more of a battle, it’s a higher standard.”
Question: As a newcomer, do you get much said by opponents to you out in the middle?
Ben Twohig: “You get some stuff. If a big nasty fast bowler comes running in, especially if you whack him for four, and they give you some verbals, you think ‘give it a rest’. You get it everywhere, second team as well, and I get it the worst in club cricket as the professional.
“I just laugh at them. It’s the one thing that has never bothered me. I say ‘you can say whatever you want, I don’t really care.’ It’s a case sticks and stones. If I was really pumped up to give it back, I think it would just make me worse as a player. It’s not too bad.”
Question: What was the game which gave you the most satisfaction in terms of the way you played?
Ben Twohig: “I think the last game (against Yorkshire at Blackfinch New Road) was probably my best and favourite game and it was nice to get my Pepsi out (Tom Kohler-Cadmore). I’d been wanting to get him out for years because he whacked me everywhere at Malvern College!
“I just felt like everything came together in that game, with the bat as well with getting 30 odd. I felt good and took everything I learnt from the previous games and it was nice to string a lot of balls together in the same spot and actually feel like you belonged at the level.”
Question: You had one or two useful knocks, like on the last day at Trent Bridge to help save the game. Do you like to regard yourself as an all-rounder?
Ben Twohig: “My batting has still got a lot to come from it and next year hopefully, if I get back in the side, I can get a couple of scores and show what I am capable of.
“Even in the Seconds, I’d like to score some ‘real’ runs. I’ve scored a lot of fifties at that level but not a hundred yet.
“If I’m getting runs, I can say I’m a genuine all-rounder and, the longer the line-up we have, the better team we are going to be. Also if the competition is tight, it will help if you can get runs as well. It makes you more pickable.”
Question: Looking on from the side, you always look like you are enjoying it when you are fielding.?
Ben Twohig: “It’s a sport that you love to play and, although you take it seriously in terms of wanting to perform, it’s also good to have a laugh. I fielded next to Mitch (Daryl Mitchell) in the slips quite a bit and he was always cracking jokes.
“I call him ‘my dad’ and he says ‘I’m nearly old enough to be your grandad, never mind your dad!’ but it’s all good fun.
“It’s just energy. It’s the same with Dolly (Brett D’Oliveira). He is an energetic person and, if you build that up, then people can feed off it.
“I went straight into the slips for the first two or three games which is pretty unusual for a youngster.
“I dropped one. I put down Alastair Cook and I was thinking ‘he is going to get 400 now’ but thankfully he nicked the next ball and I caught it.”
Question: You went to India for a few weeks the previous winter, did that help you going into the season?
Ben Twohig: “Massively. It was just bowling a lot of balls. You can focus too much on technique but you look at the Indian and Pakistan spinners and they all bowl with straightforward techniques but they all bowl millions of balls.
“Over here, because we can fast track a little bit because we’ve got the facilities, we focus on technique and 10,000 deliveries bowling with a good technique might be equal to their 50,000 deliveries of doing it however they want. But at the end of the day, if you can bowl as many balls as you can, you are going to get more accurate, and that’s what I did in India.
“I got more accurate and after I came back I could hold up an end. I didn’t end up spinning anyone out but towards the end of the season, namely the Yorkshire game, I took a few wickets and spun the ball and I felt if I kept on going that way I could end up spinning sides out and winning games.”
Question: Did it help having Moeen Ali around quite a bit last summer?
Ben Twohig: Tremendously. He is an amazing bloke and just so calming. He would stand at mid off and you are bowling to Gary Balance, a top player, and he would just say things like ‘you are bowling well’ and ‘it’s a lovely pace’.
“He just says the right things – and it’s Moeen Ali, one of the best spinners around. He gives you good tips, sets good fields, and you can get just so much knowledge off him.”
Question: Is the aim to try and build on this summer in 2019?
Ben Twohig: “Without a doubt and hopefully try and break into the white ball team as well. That’s a goal for next year, playing red ball cricket as much as possible and consistently, and to try and play T20 or 50 over stuff.”
Question: You played your Championship cricket in two blocks, three games early on and then four at the end?
Ben Twohig: “That’s just the way it will be for a while because you are a spinner. Not many spinners, apart from someone like Harmer who takes 80 wickets, are playing week in and week out.
“People like Harmer and Bess, they bat at eight so it is easier to pick them, whereas there are not many people who bat 10 or 11 who play every game, especially in Division Two, as a spinner.”
Question: It was also nice to see another young bowler in Dillon Pennington play eight Championship matches?
Ben Twohig: “He is a top bowler, he is going to be really good and also has the knack, if it’s been a challenging day, of saying something that will lift everyone.”