Now that we’re playing in Division One of the County Championship again I’ve found a noticeable difference in the quality of the bowling we’re coming up against – day in, day out – in my second full season in the Kent first team.
Last summer, in the second division, I pretty much played as an opener and there were some very good bowlers to battle against. You knew you faced a tough 20 or 30 minutes at the start of every innings to see off the opening pair, and if you coped with that, then you might go on and thrive.
But now, in the top division, you have to really work your socks off for runs. One quality bowler goes off and another replaces him. There’s no real respite and it is tough work.
I’ve got stuck in and made starts and have been getting 20s and 30s. I also got those two 50s in the game against Essex at Chelmsford, but as yet I’ve not quite managed to go on and post a big one.
Besides the strength in depth to the bowling, there’s also a change of ball to contend with. I’ve found that the Dukes ball in Division One doesn’t go as soft as quickly as the Tiflex we used last year.
The third difference, of course, is that I’m going in at No 5 now instead of the top three, yet I’m finding that you still get the odd delivery doing a little as the Dukes ball stays that little bit harder for longer.
I still see myself as a top three batter, and I’d like to think that will be my role for the future and my way forward in the game, but I certainly wouldn’t complain about batting at No 5 because it’s giving me the chance to get a run in the side.
I wouldn’t say I’m suffering from so-called ‘second season syndrome’, but I think it’s more a case of these three major changes: the Dukes ball, a higher standard in the top division and playing in the middle order, which are all different factors that I’m having to adjust to. And that is taking time.
Getting to grips with batting at No 5 is the most interesting challenge of the lot for me because I’ve always been so used to opening, or going in at No 3.
I’ve been accustomed to practicing in the morning knowing that, after the preparation, it’s almost time to go out and bat and that I’ll be out there in the middle pretty shortly. Whereas, at five, I could be waiting to bat for a few hours, maybe even a day.
The other issue is that when you open the innings as a batsman you actually set the tone for yourself. However, if I find myself going in at No 5 and we’re 30 for three, then I know I’ve just got to go in and dig in and that circumstances have already been dictated.
So that creates a totally different mindset to your approach to batting. You’re almost catching up with the game rather than setting the tone.
This season has gone by quite quickly so far and the schedule has been hectic, with little time to practice. But, while the lads are playing Twenty20, I’ve got an opportunity to analyse a few things and re-assess. I will be looking to kick on again when the Championship resumes in July.