Cricket: Man in the Middle: Millns moves up a gear to savour life in the fast lane: David Millns

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The Independent Online
IF YOU or I were facing David Millns of Leicestershire, we might wish to take issue with Playfair Cricket Annual. The description is 'medium fast'. But something has altered in the past year to delete the qualification 'medium'.

'Yes, we've changed a few things around,' Millns agrees. 'Half-way through last season I sat down with Nigel (Briers) and we decided that I should go for more pace. I used to try to swing the ball a lot, but it wasn't always happening. Now I concentrate on putting it on the spot and running it away from the bat.

'Alan Jones was umpiring a match last year and he advised me to run in straighter and hit the deck harder. Allan Donald is a good model of that style, and that's what I try to do.'

Early confirmation of Millns's concentration on the correct line at greater speed came in a match against Derby last year when he posted the season's best analysis, 9-37, and took 12 wickets in the game. He remembers it well.

'Have you got four hours? The day before we'd been beaten by Hampshire in the last over. A brilliant game. So we drove up to Derby and there waiting for us was this real green seamer of a wicket. I banged the ball into it and everything worked.'

Fresh from taking 6-87 in a match-winning exercise against Worcester last week, Millns confirms that quick bowlers hunt in pairs, even though just one of them may end up with the eye-catching analysis.

'It was John Maguire against Derby. He kept it really tight at the other end and that created the pressure. This time it was on Gordon Parsons, same thing. On another day one of the other lads would get the wickets and I'd keep things screwed down.'

When a quick bowler of Millns's generation speaks about his craft, two names from the past are likely to crop up: Ken Higgs and Geoff Arnold. 'I started at Notts with Hadlee and Rice in the team,' he says. 'So I didn't really get a chance until 1988. But after a while I still felt that I was standing still, turning up to a game without something specific to work on.

'I'd always enjoyed playing at Leicester though, because Ken Higgs was there. He was a great help, and he got my career back on the rails. He helped with the mental attitude - run in and bowl, don't worry about the batsman, think about what you're doing, not him. And then last winter I was invited on to the Whittingdale scheme with the England players, and got the chance to work with Geoff Arnold. He added his own angle to the way I should be bowling, and so it all began to come together.'

With last week's win Leicestershire move into the top half of the table, fortified by in-form openers Tim Boon and Nigel Briers. But the strength of their seam attack is part of the formula - the left-arm Australian from Southend on Sea, Alan Mullally, Winston Benjamin from Antigua, with a handful of Tests to his credit, Gordon Parsons and Millns himself.

This year there has been an extra element in the refugee from Kent, Vinnie Wells, mixing it with bowlers like Courtney Walsh and Ian Bishop in the upper reaches of the bowling averages. 'Vinnie has come on superbly,' Millns says, 'holding up the other end for the quicker bowlers and taking wickets as well.'

Aged 27 and approaching his peak as a strike bowler, Millns is one of those players who thinks about the game all the time, never taking his craft for granted. 'The thing about cricket,' he says, 'is that you've got to keep working on your game. Otherwise it will jump up and kick you in the teeth.'

(Photograph omitted)