Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

Mitchell Relishes Challenges Of Life As An Opening Batsman

Daryl Mitchell is relishing the challenges that will be provided as an opening batsman in the next six months of Specsavers County Championship Division One cricket.

The 34-year-old and his team-mates will be looking to bounce back from the opening game defeat at Hampshire when they take on Somerset at Taunton starting on Friday.

Mitchell showed his usual grit and determination at the Ageas Bowl in making 21 and 35 without going onto make the sort of major contribution that saw him hit seven hundreds last summer.

But he says it is all part of life when going in first and tackling the new ball on a regular basis and the kind of contest that Mitchell has enjoyed for more than a decade.

An average of 40 in first class cricket over such an elongated period is testament to Mitchell’s quality and stickability and his scalp is one of the most prized amongst opposition bowlers.

He said: “Last year was a good year for me personally. It was feast or famine. I think I got less than 20 on 13 occasions and the other 12 innings I managed to get seven hundreds and three fifties.

“That is part and parcel of opening the batting sometimes. You get out early against the new ball. That is the nature of the beast.

“But if you get through the new ball, you’ve done it in conditions that are as tough as it’s going to get with fresh bowlers and fresh pitches and a brand new ball.

“It’s all about cashing in when you get through those tough periods and fortunately I managed to do that last year and got seven hundreds which I was pretty pleased with and proud of.”

So what is the main difference between the two divisions? Mitchell said: “I think depth. Teams bat deeper and those third and fourth seamers are often of as high a quality as the opening bowlers which is probably not always the case in Division Two.

“In previous years, you would say there would be a bit more pace around in Division One but I’m not sure that is necessarily the case now.

“You look at Division Two last year and some of the attacks we played against, the Durham attack, Sussex with Jofra Archer and Chris Jordan and Vernon Philander, Viljoen at Derbyshire as well.

“Pace attacks have improved a lot in Division Two and a few Kolpaks have aided the quality of the attacks in Division Two.

“But in previous years (in Division One) as an opening batsman you felt the ball hit the splice of the bat a bit more and you’d play off the back foot more than the front foot.”

With so much Championship cricket crammed into the first part of the campaign, Mitchell knows the importance of early successes as Worcestershire gear up for their visit to the West Country.

He said: “We won a couple of games last time we were in Division One when we came close to staying up and it’s all about trying to get those wins on the board early this year.

“There is a lot of Championship cricket crammed in April-May. Hopefully you gain a bit of momentum and carry it forward throughout the season.

“You can’t afford to have a bad six weeks because that’s probably five or six games – nearly half the season’s fixtures.”

One encouraging aspect of the game at the Ageas Bowl was claiming maximum bowling points and bowling out Hampshire twice despite the frustration of a late order partnership in both innings.

Mitchell said: “I certainly think the ability to take 20 wickets is key and it enables you to win games of cricket.

“We’ve certainly got a better bowling attack than we ever had before in terms of the seam department.

“Seam bowling is an area where we have got plenty of depth and, whatever four we pick, we should be able to put teams under pressure and take 20 wickets.

“In terms of the batting, we’ve got a lot of bases covered as well. Travis Head will be a big injection into that middle order.

“We are well equipped but it’s a tough league. You saw Middlesex won it one year and got relegated the next. A big club like Warwickshire went down as well.

“It’s not going to be an easy task. There are eight very good teams. It’s all about performing to the best of our ability and if we can do that, I’m sure we will be competitive.”