Worcestershire batsman Joe Clarke will be blogging exclusively for ecb.co.uk throughout the season.
In the second instalment, he discusses taking on the Specsavers County Championship Division Two pace-setters, the merits of club cricket and making runs under pressure.
We’ve got a big game starting tomorrow, effectively our first home game of the season at New Road after we were completely washed out against Kent – and we’re all looking forward to facing an Essex team who are flying high with two wins out of three.
But I’m really grateful to our director of cricket, Steve Rhodes, for letting me prepare with a club game for Wellington.
I think it’s one of the great things about cricket – you might be playing against the England captain on the Sunday, but you can still turn out in a decent quality of club cricket on the Saturday afternoon.
Obviously Bumpy wouldn’t be so keen on the fast bowlers adding to their workload, but as a batter it’s good to take every chance you can to spend time in the middle – especially early in the season.
Wellington, which is near Telford in south Shropshire, play in the Birmingham & District Premier League, and the game is against Himley.
I played for Wellington for a couple of years as a teenager, before going back to my local club of Oswestry for the last two summers.
I’ve got some good friends there and I think it works well for everyone, mixing up the professional and recreational game. It certainly brings you back down to earth.
The Essex game is one all the Worcester boys are looking forward to. After the frustration of what happened against Kent, we were just relieved to get going against Gloucestershire in Bristol last Sunday, and a draw was a fair result.
It was a good game of cricket on a good cricket wicket I thought – although I suppose I would say that after getting a century.
It couldn’t have gone a lot better really, a hundred in the first Championship game. I’d have liked another score in the second innings, obviously, but it’s something to build on with what I want to achieve through the summer.
I was impressed by Gloucestershire actually – a lot of their players really seem to have kicked on since we were last in Division Two a couple of years ago.
Chris Dent scored 190 in the game and was very difficult to bowl to, and Liam Norwell was quite an awkward bowler to face. I reckon they could have a decent season.
It meant we were in a bit of bother at 160 for five after they’d made 380 – getting runs in a situation like that when the pressure was on, with really good support from Ben Cox and Matt Henry, is always more satisfying.
Then we were under pressure again at 49 for three in the second innings, but you wouldn’t really have known it from the way Moeen Ali batted.
When Mo first came back down to training a few days before the game he looked quite rusty – not surprising as he’d had a proper break since the World T20. But as you’ll have seen if you’ve seen the highlights on social media, he was straight back into the groove down in Bristol.
He’s always a pleasure to watch – everyone just sits there wishing we could play shots like that. It was great for him, great for us and great for England to see how well he played for a century in the second innings – and it’s been a feature of all the games so far how well the England guys are doing.
That includes Alastair Cook obviously, but hopefully he won’t get too many more against us. Moeen has told a couple of the lads we’ll get him caught at leg slip off Jack Shantry. This is what you want in county cricket, the chance to play with and against the best players, like Moeen and Cook.
I went out for dinner with Mo a couple of times down in Bristol, much to the amusement of some of our other lads who reckon I’m turning into his shadow – it’s interesting how much he gets recognised these days, with loads of people wanting their picture taken with him. I ended up taking most of them.
He enjoys coming back to Worcester, and everyone loves having him around. We all look up to him because of what he’s achieved, and that’s a real inspiration to the younger guys who want to follow that same sort of path.
We’ve got him for three games, and we want to make the most of it.
I’ll finish with a quick word for our ground staff, because we practised at New Road yesterday in hailstones, and it’s been such a bizarre week weather wise – but the ground looks in really good nick. We just can’t wait to get out there.