Henry Cullen is gearing up for his “biggest game” for Worcestershire’s Academy when they take on Smethwick in the final of the Graham Williamson Trophy at New Road on Sunday (12.30pm start).
The wicket-keeper-batter and his teammates have toppled three Birmingham Premier League sides in Halesowen, holders Barnt Green and Ombersley, to reach the final.
Now Cullen is relishing the chance to play at New Road with the chance of winning some silverware at stake.
He said: “It will be a great opportunity, especially being at New Road, a final.
“It will definitely be my biggest game for the Academy, being a final and with a trophy at stake.
“It will be a good challenge. I’ve played a couple of junior club games in cup finals at New Road for Barnt Green, my old club.
“This would be my fifth or sixth time playing there, but it is always special.
“Smethwick at full strength are strong but the lads have gained confidence from how things have gone over the three rounds.”
“It’s been good playing for Worcestershire in the Graham Williamson Trophy; that competitive edge has brought out the best in people. It is very exciting.
“We’d only got past the first round once previously, and that was in a bowl out against Shrewsbury, so it’s nice to go on a cup run.
“It is always a good test against the Birmingham League teams. A bit different to playing other Academies or other 18-year-olds.”
Cullen says he and his teammates have benefitted from playing Birmingham Premier League cricket.
He said: “For me, going to play at Kenilworth Wardens, more as a batter, has definitely helped me, and it has definitely pretty much helped the whole team that play in the Birmingham League on a Saturday.
“You are playing against men in proper club cricket, and it has definitely helped and is one of the reasons why we have got so far.”
Cullen says winning on Sunday would be the perfect end to the last few days.
He scored his maiden half-century for the Second Eleven against Leeds-Bradford UCCE on his way to 85 not out and then on Friday celebrated his 19th birthday.
He said: “It would be a good way to end to three or four good days, and what more could you want really.
“To get my first fifty for the Seconds was special. I played a normal innings up until tea, but we were going to declare eight to ten overs into the final session, so I thought I had better give it a little go after that.
“I’ve played quite a lot of Seconds cricket recently, and there have been some familiar faces with quite a few of the Academy lads getting an opportunity.
“Is it a big step up from Academy cricket? I think just the depth in bowling is probably the biggest difference and also the consistency.”
Cullen was called into the Royal London Cup squad along with Ben Parker last summer.
He said: “That was a very nice month, being involved around the camp. It was good training with them and watching them play and being part of the environment.
“It shows the standards you need to get to if you want to play at that level.”
In terms of his wicket-keeping skills, Cullen admits: “I’ve learnt a lot from watching Ben (Cox) and Gareth (Roderick) when I get the chance, looking at how consistent they are.
“That is probably the biggest thing, doing it throughout a day and keeping their standards as high as possible.
“Concentration is a big thing for a wicket-keeper, especially if you get that one chance.
“When I was growing up, the England keeper was Matt Prior, and now I look at Ben as a keeper because he is up there with the best really.”