Billy Godleman marked his return to the Essex side with a career-best 130 against Leicestershire at Grace Road – and hoped that the second innings ton had got his cricketing life back on track.
The son of a Camden cabbie, Godleman was hailed as the best English prospect for a decade when he was named Bunbury Under-15 player of the year and then made his first-class debut, together with Steven Finn, for Middlesex against Cambridge UCCE as a 16 year-old.
However, his career with his native county stalled and, towards the end of the 2009 season, he was allowed to move on. He joined Essex the following season, scoring 92 on debut and then 106 against Somerset three matches later. However, he failed to win a regular place in the starting line-up after collecting a series of indifferent scores.
Now 22, Godleman started this season with a half-century in the County Championship opener with Kent but then managed only 50 runs in six subsequent innings and was dropped for the next five Championship matches. Thus, his recall against Leicestershire was an opportunity he wanted to grab with both hands.
“It might not have been an attractive innings to watch but I needed a decent score and all I was concentrating on was the next delivery,” he said, reflecting on the fourth first-class century of his career which spanned 225 balls and included 12 fours.
“The runs are in the book. Rather than making targets for myself during the innings, I just concentrated on the next ball, dealing with that and then preparing to deal with the next delivery. Things happened for me and I’ve ended up with a nice outcome.”
“It’s been a frustrating and disappointing time for me to have been left out but I’ve learned from the experience. In fairness, I hadn’t got the runs to warrant a place in the side. I recognise that it’s only myself who can influence the decision to include me in the team.
“I have a lot of ambition to do well for Essex, not just in four-day cricket but in the shorter forms of the game as well. But I’ve come in against Leicestershire and taken my chance and, hopefully, I can build my Essex career on from here. The most important thing is that Essex County Cricket Club is winning games but I want to be playing my part in helping them to achieve that.”
Essex have tried a string of batsmen in an attempt to find an effective opening pairing in Championship cricket with the latest being Godleman’s alliance with Tom Westley for the match at Leicestershire – and it proved a successful combination.
The duo posted 104 in the second innings before being parted, the first time since September 2009 that Essex had seen their openers reach three figures in Championship cricket. “Considering that I’ve probably opened the innings in half of those matches that’s not really a great statistic for me to be associated with,” added Godleman.
The left-hander was entitled to feel highly satisfied, though, when Owais Shah joined his former Middlesex teammate in a second wicket liaison worth 177, thus allowing Essex to enjoy century stands for their first two wickets for the first time since 2006.
Godleman revealed that his partners in both achievements were good personal friends. “I’ve known both of them for a long while now,” he said. “Tom and I have been good friends since we were 11 or 12 while Owais is also a good friend who I’ve known from our time at Middlesex.
“So it was good to bat with both of them. There wasn’t too much talk going on as we were concentrating on our games, but it was good to have a familiar and friendly face at the opposite end all the time.”