Jake Ball is hoping to shake off the winter blues when Nottinghamshire launch their 2018 Specsavers County Championship campaign in Manchester on Friday.
The former Academy graduate achieved one of his boyhood dreams by going on an Ashes tour with England - but was left to pick himself up after featuring in only the first match of the series.
However he is raring to go for the county’s return to Division One against Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford – and can draw on good memories of the equivalent fixture when Notts were last in the top tier two years ago.
That game was billed as a showdown between Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, but Ball stole the show with six wickets – starting a run of form which thrust him into the England reckoning for the first time.
“I think this winter was comfortably the hardest time I’ve had as a professional cricketer.”
“Obviously to play Test and One-Day cricket for your country is amazing,” reflected the 27-year-old. “But at the same time it has been frustrating that I haven’t had the opportunity to have a run in the side and show what I can do.
“I think this winter was comfortably the hardest time I’ve had as a professional cricketer. After being, from what I understand, the best bowler in the warm-up games then to pick up an injury, rush back from that injury and only be given one game after that was quite tough for me to deal with.
“I had quite a few mental times where you start questioning yourself and wondering if you are going to get another opportunity ,but it has been great to get back with Notts and enjoy my cricket again.
“This year it’s all about kicking on. I’m 27 and think I’ve still got a lot to offer. The winter was an extremely frustrating one but I’m looking to come back and show what I can do and show everybody that I’ve got the pace and the bounce and all the other attributes to be successful at Test level.
“Last time we were in Division One was when I first burst into the England set-up with a good start to the season and I feel like I’m almost starting afresh again this year.
“I know I’ve definitely got the first five games with Notts, so I just want to go out there and do what I did in 2016, take wickets and get people talking about me again.
“I really enjoy taking the new ball and going out and trying to set the tone for the innings, it’s a role that I enjoy doing for Notts. In my head I’m in a good position mentally after a tough winter, so I’m really looking forward to taking lots of wickets and scoring lots of runs.”
The pace bowler knows he’ll have to work hard for any reward that comes his way and acknowledges the strengths of this week’s opposition, Lancashire.
“We are in a much better position now than where we were two years ago coming into the first game.”
“I think they are decent - but you can say that about most teams in Division One,” Ball noted. “Going down to Division Two last year there were a couple of good individual players in most sides, but this year it’s a much bigger test for us knowing that there’s international experience in every team.
“They’ve all got strong batters all the way down to seven or eight and even after then they know what it’s about, so having blown a few teams away last year, it’s not going to be that easy this year and we’re prepared for that.
“But we are in a much better position now than where we were two years ago coming into the first game.”
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