Tom Bailey reflects on 2018 season
Interview with Lancashire bowler Tom Bailey
It is often said that good things come to those who wait. For Tom Bailey, that certainly rings true. Somewhat of a late bloomer as both a junior and senior, Lancashire’s new ball seamer is reflecting on a standout year in 2018.
The 27 year-old finished the summer as the leading wicket-taker in the Specsavers County Championship with 64 wickets at 19.65 apiece. He was the only man in the top-flight to top the 60-mark and the third most prolific bowler in either division behind Kent’s Matt Henry and Sussex’s Ollie Robinson, who took 75 and 74 respectively.
It was form which ensured he picked up Lancashire’s Player of the Year award in late September, although he accepts he would swap personal success in a heartbeat if it meant relegation from Division One could be reversed.
“I have enjoyed the season, but I enjoy the team winning more than anything else. The feeling of winning a four-day game is unbelievable given the work that goes in. So for us to be in Division Two is really disappointing,” admitted the Prestonian, a self-confessed cricket tragic who first got into the game watching his father Peter play league cricket on the outskirts of Chorley at the same club former Red Rose captain Tom Smith started out.
“I used to go and watch my old man on a Saturday playing at Withnell Fold. He was a left-hand batter who gave it a bit of a whack. I used to go down there from as early as I can remember.
“I actually started scoring for them on a Saturday, but they didn’t have a junior set-up, and as I wanted to play I went down to Vernon Carus. That was when I was about 12, and I spent six or seven years there. My dad grew up in Chorley, so he’s always played at Withnell Fold. But I was born in Preston.
“I didn’t play my first Saturday game, for Vernon’s third team, until I was 16. I was still scoring up until 15. So I was a bit of a late starter. I shot up in height, and it started from there. I absolutely loved playing or even any chance to train.
“I had a proper passion for cricket, and would watch as much as I could. I wouldn’t say I wanted to be like anyone, but I loved watching Steve Harmison bowl just because he was so quick.”
Bailey’s late development at league level had a knock-on effect when it came to representative cricket. He did not pull on the Red Rose until his final year as an under 19 and was on a Scholarship contract for three years between 2012 and 2014 before signing his first professional contract, at the age of 23.
“I always felt like I was close to a pro contract, but I was told there wasn’t enough space to put me on the staff,” he explained. “That’s why I was on a scholarship for longer than normal. I feel I could have played a lot more first-team cricket than I have. I’ve only played 40 odd first-class games. I suppose I could have had a look elsewhere for other chances, but I was happy in the environment.”
Bailey’s first-class debut, against Surrey at Liverpool, came in late 2012, and he has had to deal with his fair share of injury issues since then.
“I had never played a full first-class season before,” he admitted, reflecting on the most recent summer.
“Last winter I had a real emphasis on trying to get ready for April and making sure I stayed injury free. We seemed to find an ideal workload in pre-season.
“Last winter was a key one for me. I want to play for England, and given my age it was time to switch on. I wouldn’t say I was bad at preparing for a season, but given my record of injuries, I had to sharpen up. With the help of the medical staff, we’ve found a way. I’ve really enjoyed the experience and success I’ve had.”
Surprisingly, Bailey’s 64 wickets included only one five-for - in the defeat against Surrey at the Oval - with a plethora of three and four-wicket hauls throughout the campaign a sign of impressive consistency. He also struck up an instant rapport with new signing and new ball partner Graham Onions, who finished the campaign with 57 wickets from 12 appearances.
“I felt good all year,” said Bailey.
“I’ve had quite a few four-fors, and it would have been nice to turn them into fives, but you can’t argue with 60-odd wickets. It’s nice to get fives, of course, but the team comes first. If I’d taken four wickets and was starting to leak runs, I would happily say ‘Take me off’.”
Bailey can count himself unlucky to have missed out on an England Lions call up for their pre-Christmas tour to the UAE, but the Lancashire bowler was named in the squad for the red-ball tour next month in India.
“Ever since I started playing cricket, I feel I’ve adapted well and stepped up to the next level quite well. And I fully back myself to do it again. If I keep going the way I am doing, fingers crossed an opportunity arises and I’ll take it with both hands,” he said before looking ahead to 2019 and the main goal of promotion from Division Two.
“After finishing second last year and adding to the staff, our focus was on winning the title.
"I thought we had a great chance. But we just didn’t score the runs. It’s that simple. Hopefully it’s just a one off and we can finish top next year and get back up.”
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