Tom Craddock’s highly impressive County Championship debut for Essex, in which he took four second innings wickets in victory over Division Two pacesetters Northamptonshire at Chelmsford, has greatly improved his aspirations of winning a professional contract with the county.
The 21-year-old leg-spinner’s first victim was Andrew Hall, bowled attempting to sweep, before he added the scalps of Chaminda Vaas, Lee Daggett and James Middlebrook to earn himself figures of four for 70.
The Huddersfield-born player, who joined Essex on a two-month trial at the start of June, had impressed head coach and fellow Yorkshireman Paul Grayson when playing for the Unicorns against Essex in two Clydesdale Bank 40 matches earlier this season.
Having taken seven wickets for Essex Second XI against Sussex just a few days before, Craddock continued his fine form when given his first team chance. “I was delighted with the way things went and to play my part in helping Essex to victory was obviously very satisfying,” said Craddock.
“I came into the game full of confidence after taking those wickets for the seconds but playing for the first team was an altogether different experience. That first wicket is always going to mean something special. In fact, I didn’t mean the ball to go where it did but, luckily enough, it bowled the batsman round his legs, so it was a bit fortunate.
“Generally, however, the ball was coming out well all the time and so I have to be satisfied with my overall performance.”
Craddock has spent the past three seasons playing for Leeds/Bradford as part of the MCC Universities programme, while he also took 72 wickets for his club side Holmfirth in the Drakes Premiership last summer. Now, he feels ready to move into the professional game.
“My ambition has always been to play county cricket and I’ve had trials here and there, but when I got a solid offer from Essex I snapped their hands off and to get a Championship debut so soon is a dream. They are a good, strong county and it’s a good dressing room to be in with a number of good and experienced professionals and other young lads like myself trying to make their way in the game.
“Paul Grayson has shown a lot of faith in me so I want to repay him. Hopefully, I can be with Essex through until the end of the season, get a lot more wickets and see what happens after that.”
Essex have been desperately seeking to fill the void left by Pakistan leg-spinner Danish Kaneria, whose contract with the county was not extended at the end of the 2010 season, and Grayson is expecting great things of Craddock.
“I’ve had my eye on him for some while,” he said. “He’s definitely got something about him and he looks an exciting prospect. As far as we are concerned it’s nothing ventured nothing gained, and it’s a good opportunity for him. The more he is exposed to this environment, the better he’ll get.”