Eye on the County Championship: Notts game was as close to a Test as I will get

 

Facing Nottinghamshire last week was probably as close to playing international cricket as I’m likely to get. With Stuart Broad coming back from injury to take the new ball with Peter Siddle, who has been in the Australia side for a long time, backed up by Andre Adams and Ajmal Shahzad, two canny bowlers who’ve both played Test cricket, it was a pretty high-quality attack.

After not playing any Championship cricket last season, it made it all the more satisfying for me to end up with a hundred. Stuart probably didn’t nail his line and length as well as he would have liked but he bowled well in patches, he swung the ball and bowled with reasonable pace.

They played into my hands a bit. With some weather about, they were looking for bonus points and so they attacked the stumps and that enabled me to get off to a flyer. But I felt in good form. It was nice to get through the 90s with a six and four off Samit Patel, another who’s played Test cricket.

Turning the hundred into an unbeaten 158 was satisfying too. I pride myself on my fitness, which stands me in good stead to play long innings. My coach at Durham School used to tell me off for not scoring as many runs as I should when I had the chance and I think remembering that has helped me turn a few hundreds into big ones. Just as they would have enjoyed having Broad around, it is massive for us to have Ben Stokes in the side, even if it is only for a short time. It was a big part of winning the Championship last year that we had someone like him who can change the game with the bat and ball. This year we have had a couple of games that finished in draws where last year Stokesy would have done something special to get us over the line.

The first ball he got at Trent Bridge he hit a lovely four through midwicket. That set him up and he played beautifully, which is a good sign for England and hopefully for us for a couple of games. There is a little bit of discomfort in his wrist. I don’t think it has totally healed yet. But he is as hard as nails, Stokesy, so he just gets on with it.

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