Friday, April 20, 2012

David Balcombe's 'Ridiculous' Run of Form

It's not so long ago David Balcombe was merely a peripheral figure in the Hampshire squad, unable to stake a claim for first team action. Having made his debut for Hants in 2007, Balcombe subsequently spent much of the proceeding 3 seasons playing in the lower Surrey leagues, before going on loan to Kent last season.

And it was at Canterbury last year that something finally clicked for the 27 year old, who started his cricketing career playing for Durham UCCE in 2005. His last two games for Kent last season yielded 19 wickets at 13.37 runs a piece, form that made his permanent employers Hampshire welcome him back to the Ageas Bowl with open arms.

Of course relegation for Hants last term meant a summer clear out of playing staff was needed, which worked in favour of players like Balcombe as it meant a guaranteed chance of first team action in Division Two and in Balcombe's case, he has taken it with both hands.

Highlighted before this season as one of Sky Sports County Cricketers to watch, Balcombe performed well in the pre-season match against Loughborough earlier this month, taking 5 wickets at 16.4, before exploding onto people's radars with a magnificent 11/119 in the first LV county championship match of the season at home to Gloucestershire last week. 

"Yeah I mean, it's ridiculous really!" Balcombe quipped to BBC Radio Solent after day one of Hampshire's match at Glamorgan on Thursday. "I'm just trying to be disciplined, be consistent and try and do the right things. I haven't been thinking about taking wickets this year, I've just been trying to bowl dots and bowl maidens and bowl with the guy at the other end and they (the opposing batsmen) just keep missing it, it's ridiculous I don't really know what's going on!"

Of course he does know really! Balcombe is bowling a consistent line and length, and rather than trying to force the issue, as is a young players prerogative sometimes, Balcombe has instead taken a leaf out of some of the England bowlers books and realised that consistency is the key to success, particularly in first class cricket.

"Last week (at home to Gloucestershire) probably had more carry and the ball stayed more lush so it swung, so with swing and carry I got most of my wickets caught behind" Balcombe continued, having impressed again with figures of 5/33 as Glamorgan faltered to 103/9 declared on day one at the SWALEC stadium. 

"This wicket is a bit slower and I looked at the way they got out last week and the ball was straighter, so I just tried to bowl straighter and I got a couple of lbw's which I'm really pleased with."

Balcombe also paid tribute to his bowling partners, adding, "We didn't go too crazy and start searching for wickets, (Chris) Woody bowled fantastically (2/25), Hamza (Riazuddin, 1/20), (Danny) Briggsy (1/8), everyone backed each other up and it was pressure from both ends."

Balcombe is right. Hampshire have nurtured a young bowling attack over the winter which so far looks as good as any in LV Division Two. Most eyes, including mine, were looking Danny Briggs' way before the campaign started, but Balcombe has lead the Hampshire attack and as they closed day one in Cardiff 29/1, Balcombe backed his batters to come good to deliver Hampshire's first win of the season.

"The guys (the batsmen) are hungry. They want to rectify some of the dismissals from last week. We've got a cracking top order and hopefully they can get more runs (in this game).

With 49 wickets in his last 7 First Class matches, Balcombe has done his bit. And if his performances this season continue  in this vein, the England selectors might have to start taking a closer look at him too.

Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

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