Worcestershire newcomer Taylor Cornall relishes spending lengthy periods at the crease, so it is unsurprising that his cricketing hero is England Test legend, Sir Alastair Cook.
Cornall is experiencing his first winter as a full-time cricket professional and working with and feeding off the knowledge of Head Coach Alex Gidman, Kadeer Ali and Kevin Sharp, all formerly accomplished batsmen.
The 23-year-old enjoys building an innings in red ball cricket and twice showed his potential and ability to dig in last summer against Yorkshire when two knocks six months apart spanned more than 11 hours.
In late March, Cornall played for Leeds-Bradford UCCE against a Yorkshire attack including Ben Coad, Matthew Fisher, David Willey and Steven Patterson, scoring 142 in 423 minutes at Headingley.
Then in September, he was given a trial for Worcestershire in a Second Eleven Championship match at Scarborough and battled away to help save the game with 106 in 258 minutes with South African paceman, Duanne Olivier, spearheading Yorkshire’s attack.
It led to Cornall, who played two Royal London Cup games on trial with Lancashire last summer, earning his contract with Worcestershire, and he is determined to make the most of the opportunity.
Cornall said: “How has the winter gone? I prided myself on having high fitness levels, so the fitness side of it was a bit challenging, but I’ve been able to deal with it.
“The cricket side is fantastic. It’s everything you’ve wanted to do for your whole life. That’s what your job is, to come and hit balls, and it’s great to turn up and do that three or four days a week and work on getting better.
“It’s been nice to have an entire winter where you can look at different things and tweak other things and work closely with Alex, Kadeer and Kevin.
“They all used to be good quality batsman, and it’s quite a vast range of knowledge to dip into, little bits from each one of them.
“You tweak a little bit of technique, just getting rid of stuff that creeps into your game throughout the season, but also just making sure you are in the right mental mindset to focus on the job in hand.”
Sharp pinpointed Cornall’s qualities as ‘good temperament, patient, good concentration and likes to bat for long periods.”
He admitted: “My strength lies within the four-day game, and getting big hundreds is what I aim to do really and just take the time out (in the middle).
“It has been a bit overlooked the last ten years, where it has been white ball dominated, and that is fun, but it’s also about just taking the time to build your innings, and I enjoy just batting.
“It’s better than watching from the pavilion. I’ve always naturally done that, even from when I was younger. I always took time to get in.
“That is what I’ve enjoyed about the winter programme, and it’s given me the chance to develop that and also develop my white ball game.”
Cook finished his international career as England’s leading scorer in Test cricket, and Cornall is a big admirer.
He said: “He is a real stand-out player, and what he’s achieved in the game is remarkable and working within a range of talent, just getting the most out of yourself through discipline, is just something to be admired and respected.
“Occasionally, I will watch people like him on videos and Youtube to see how they go about things, how people play different conditions.
“At the moment, Labuschagne is the pinnacle and, if you can pick up things from everyone, maybe straighten my hands up, or give myself a bit more time, it makes a big difference.
“It’s just nitpicking and being observant of everything around.”
Cornall stresses the importance of having “a clear mind” when out in the middle.
He said: “Much of the game is in the head, and it is important not to really worry too much about certain things.
“A lot of the game is instinctive anyway, so much of it is out of your hands.
“If you worry too much, it takes its toll. Everyone goes through it where you start worrying about different things, but you don’t want to clutter your mind. A clear mind is important.”
Cornall says he has benefitted from playing a vast amount of league cricket, firstly with Thornton-Cleveleys and then for three teams in Lytham, Northern and Ormskirk in the Liverpool Premier League.
He said: “I haven’t done a conventional way of coming into the game, like being part of an Academy.
“You don’t always come out and play on a beautiful batting deck where you can smash the ball around.
“League cricket toughens you up and exposes you to different challenges which you don’t face playing top-end junior cricket.”
He owes a big thank you to his mum and dad for their support.
Cornall said: “My mum and dad were a huge help, especially my dad. He is still the person I go to. He has played a lot of amateur cricket, and he is the one who has got me to this stage really.
“I owe him everything. He has been fantastic, driven me up and down the country, always supported me, and is always still there to throw balls.
“When I went back at Christmas, we had a net together. (Chris). He played for Blackpool in league cricket.
“It was quite weird because when I made my full Lancashire debut, it was alongside Steven Croft, who had played with my dad at Blackpool!”
Cornall faced a testing start to his career when opening for Leeds-Bradford UCCE at the beginning of the 2019 season.
He said: “I came up against Ravi Rampaul with Derbyshire in one game and then Duanne Olivier for the first time with Yorkshire in the next.
“To be honest, they tormented the whole team a little bit, but it was good fun, a great challenge, and makes you better as a player going forward.
“Playing as a student against professionals is probably the most complex challenge because we don’t have access to what the pros have access to.
“The coach at Leeds, Andrew Lawson, does a fantastic job of getting the best out of us with the time that we give, so you come into those games, and you are full of confidence to give it a go.”
Cornall, who Kent also offered a contract, admits he will be striving to challenge for a first team spot when the pre-season programme gets underway in just over a month.
He said: “It is a huge driving force. It is something you look at and think, if you have a good pre-season, you never know where you will come the first game of the season.
“That is so refreshing about this year, in that if I prove myself, I potentially have a chance in the not too distant future.
“I am 23, not 18. I want to start making as big an impact in games as possible. There are four pre-season games, that’s where the competition comes in, and that’s what makes it so good.
“We have a very skilful squad and some very good cricketers who are ready to kick on to that next stage now.
“It is so exciting that players are experienced but young in years. It must be fantastic to look upon that squad and think ‘it could do something special.’
“What would I be happy with at the end of season? I want to make my first class debut for Worcestershire and make a big impact on games, get some big hundreds, contribute to the team winning, and be a hard, tough cricketer.”