Spinner Josh Baker reflected on a “crazy few months” and is determined to keep learning after making his first-team breakthrough with Worcestershire CCC.
Academy product Baker showed more of his potential in the Second Eleven Championship (SEC) game with Warwickshire at New Road when he returned second innings figures of 33-14-59-7.
He exploited a pitch offering some turn as Worcestershire warmed up with a 219 run win for their LV=Insurance County Championship match against Sussex at New Road, beginning on Monday.
He became the first Worcestershire bowler to take seven wickets in an innings in the SEC since another spinner in George Rhodes returned 7-84 against Durham in 2019 at Maiden Castle.
Last month, Baker finished at Malvern College and was quickly elevated to first-team level with Worcestershire and has shown lots of promise.
Now he is hoping to help Worcestershire achieve a successful finale to the 2021 season.
He said: “It was nice to bowl on a wicket with a little bit of turn at New Road. It’s the first wicket I’ve played on where that has been a bit of assistance.
“Most wickets I’ve played on in professional cricket have been pretty flat, and you just have to try and bowl your best ball and hit the top of off-stump.
“When I saw it was helping me a little bit, my eyes lit up!
“I think I had seven wickets once on a tour of South Africa with Malvern College, but this is probably one of the best days I’ve had on a cricket field so far.
“I hope I can get to keep the match ball, and it will go on my window sill at home. It will be a nice memento of a good day.
“I bowled 28 overs in an Academy game before, but I think this was probably the most over I’ve bowled in an innings but, when there is a turning pitch, I am never going to get tired!”
Since the start of July, Baker has taken a Second Eleven Championship hat-trick against Nottinghamshire, signed a rookie contract, made his first-class debut and been a regular member of the side in the Royal London Cup.
He said: “It has been a crazy few months.
“If you had said to me at the start of the year that I’d play professional cricket and make my first-class and List A debuts, I’d have bitten your hand off!
“I’m enjoying it so far, and the whole of the List A experience was a good learning curve for the future as well. I want to keep learning.”
Club Captain Joe Leach showed great faith in Baker when handing him the ball for the penultimate over of a rain-hit game with Gloucestershire at Bristol.
He said: “It was a nerve-wracking but good experience. I wasn’t expecting it because I had bowled one over for nine runs.
“Joe called me back to bowl, and I was quite surprised, but it was really good that he showed that faith in me and gave me a lot of confidence.”
Baker stood up to the challenge of several players, including Middlesex’s Steve Eskinazi, targeting him as a young bowler and trying to knock him out of his stride.
He said: “When they did that, I just tried to concentrate on what I had done well so far, what had got me to this point.
“It was a bit of a wake-up call, that they could play like that and be that good. It was about trying to bounce back and learn from it.
“The biggest challenge is that a batsman can hit even a good ball anywhere, through either lap sweep or smashing it straight back over my head.
“You don’t really get that in schools and Academy cricket, and that is probably the biggest step up and also teams batting down to number eleven as well.”
Baker is looking for Worcestershire to finish the 2021 season in style.
He said: “It will be nice for the team to have a good finish, try and be undefeated and possibly win all four games and top the group.”