Worcestershire CCC all-rounder Ed Barnard believes the amount of time he spends at the crease is as important as the runs scored, in his quest to become a top notch batsman.
Barnard ended the 2021 LV=Insurance County Championship campaign with 746 runs at an average of nearly 50, with only Jake Libby contributing more runs for Worcestershire.
It was Barnard’s highest aggregate for a season and his weight of runs and consistency led to his promotion into the number six spot for the final phase of the campaign.
But Barnard took equal satisfaction from the number of deliveries he faced with the final total of 1458 being amongst the highest tally in the country.
It compared to 809, 886, 961 and 1002 deliveries in his previous four full seasons for Worcestershire.
He said: “That is the most pleasing thing. With my batting, I’ve always showed that I can play the shots and I’m quite a good attacking player at times.
“But to show that other side, where you have to dig in, face lots of balls and soak up the pressure is the most pleasing thing for me.
“It’s something I want to get even better at because that’s what great batters do.
“To go from a decent batter to a very good batter, that is what you have got to do and bat in lots of different situations.”
It was a reward for the way Barnard had also approached his batting during the winter and intends to continue in the months ahead.
He said: “There were a couple of small technical things but nothing major. It was just volume of balls I hit and practicing with a slightly different intensity than over the past couple of winters.
“Myself and Alex (Gidman) said ‘how we are going to get the best out of my batting’ and it was to treat myself more like a batter when I trained so I hit more balls than I ever have done this winter.
“It was just real basic things, but making sure I was really nailing them everytime I batted rather than having a hit here and there, trying to juggle batting and bowling all of the time.
“I actually hit way more balls than I ever have done before from a range of machines and I was happy to take that into the summer.”
Barnard got off to the perfect start with a maiden century at Chelmsford against reigning champions Essex, and never looked back.
He said: “Ever since the start of my career, I’ve been saying I want to score big runs, want to be contributing as much as I can to the team.
“To have done this year consistently and for the whole season, I’m really proud of that and actually think I could have scored more runs.
“There were certain times when I got out when I could have scored more but overall I’m really happy with how that has gone and feel my batting is in a really good place.”
“Did I get a lot of confidence from Chelmsford? Definitely. It was a bit of a monkey off the back to get that first hundred but also with the situation of the game as well.
“We were up against a high quality attack and have been one of the best teams in the country for a number of years.
“It was a real confidence-booster to myself in that first game and to prove to myself that I can do it at this level.
“It was the perfect way to start, and to bat with Jake (Libby) for so long, who has been so good as well, was really nice. You couldn’t have asked for a better start.”
Barnard was determined to show that he could bat higher up the order for Worcestershire.
He said: “It is something myself and Alex have spoken about for the last couple of years, how to treat myself more as a batter.
“Rather than being like ‘if you do this, it will lead to this’ it was more naturally ‘if you score enough runs, you are going to get pushed up the order and there will be more opportunities if you do those things.’
“For me it was just about putting together a consistent run of scores and, I knew if I did that, I would get that opportunity, and luckily I got that chance against Warwickshire.”
Barnard responded to his promotion with another hundred against the Bears and his first at New Road.
He said: “Having been given the chance, it was a case of showing why you’ve been put there and again it was quite a good wicket and I really saw an opportunity to get in and score big.
“Adam Finch played brilliantly (at number eleven) because, with his support, I got the last 40 runs when we were only one wicket away from being bowled out.
“To stay in and bat for a long time, especially against Warwickshire, was nice.”
Barnard has had occasional opportunities up the order in previous seasons – but this time he felt ready.
He said: “The difference this time was I felt I had earned the right to be where I was batting and I was there because of the volume of runs I had scored.
“A couple of times before when I’d gone up the order, it was due to the balance of the team or fill a hole for a couple of games.
“I still enjoyed it and I will bat wherever for the good of the team.
“But those times before, it didn’t quite feel like a long term thing whereas this year, because I had scored the runs, the way I had practiced, I really felt I had earnt that spot and it is mine to lose.”