Worcestershire CCC paceman Dillon Penningtonrelished making his debut for Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred and says it will be the biggest game of his career if selected for the final group game against Northern Superchargers.
Pennington stepped into the team after an injury niggle to New Zealand paceman Adam Milne and produced the kind of performances he has shown for Worcestershire Rapids in the Vitality Blast.
He picked up early wickets and finished with the superb figures of 2-11 from his 15 balls with 10 dots in the 16 run win over Trent Rockets at Trent Bridge.
Victory over the Superchargers on Tuesday at Headingley will secure top spot in the group for the Phoenix and an automatic place in Saturday evening’s final at Lord’s.
He said: “I was extremely nervous the other night but something that helped me was I had a determination that, if I was going to play in the tournament, I’d try and use my opportunity as much as I could.
“I think that actually helped a lot with the nerves. I had tunnel vision to try and do as best as I could and show some of my skills. I was nervous, but I wanted to perform.
“Adam Milne (New Zealand paceman) has been brilliant and, with him missing a game through a slight niggle, I had to perform to help make sure we continued the run of success we have had.
“Was it difficult to get into a rhythm? Obviously those thoughts clicked into the head. I hadn’t played for a month but, everytime something came in that could have been a negative thought, I tried to blank that out.
“I was just thinking of the bits of success I had in the Vitality Blast with the Rapids and tried to use that as a positive going into the game.
“I tried to treat it as a ‘no different’ game even though the crowd was huge. I just tried to keep it as simple as possible, follow the success we had at Worcestershire and treated it the same.
“There is a huge correlation between early wickets and games won. My role in most teams at the moments will be to try and take early wickets in the powerplay.”
Pennington added: “Will Tuesday be the biggest game of my career? I’ve got to get back in the team first. I came in for Adam Milne the other night and he has been excellent.
“I’ve got to get back in, but if I do play it will be a huge game and there will be another incredible crowd.
“I was part of the Rapids squads which reached finals day, a great experience, but I didn’t manage to play.
“It will be the biggest game of my career if selected but I will try and make sure I don’t treat it any differently.
“I understand it is a big game but, as long as I keep to my strengths, it should be okay.”
Pennington is enjoying his time with the Phoenix which follows on from some fine performances in the LV=Insurance County Championship and Vitality Blast for Worcestershire.
He said: “It has been a great experience. I’ve loved being part of a new group, and getting to know some new people.
“It’s been a completely different challenge, one I’ve probably not had before in terms of going straight into an environment where I’ve got to perform and show my worth.
“I’m loving the Worcestershire group, being around them and feeling a lot more part of that group, and to go into a completely new environment, where there are some unbelievable cricketers, was a really big challenge the first few days.
“But you have to put a confident face on, you have to go in there with full confidence but it has been a great experience, and hopefully that puts me in good stead for when I can get myself into some other new environments moving forward.”
Pennington has learnt a lot from Milne who has played 40 ODIs and 23 T20Is for the Black Caps.
He said: “I’ve managed to speak a lot to Adam Milne and just watching him when he plays, has been a great learning curve in terms of how good he actually is.”
Pennington was also delighted to work in a group captained by Rapids team-mate and skipper in Moeen Ali until his call-up for the second Test against India.
He said: “Mo has been really good. He obviously knows me as a player really well so he knows how I tick and that makes life a lot easier.
“He has obviously portrayed that to the coaching staff, and that has then gone onto Liam Livingstone, who was also really good as captain the other night.
“He kept it simple, very clear as to what the field was going to be where I was going to bowl, and it made life a lot easier.”