It’s fair to say that after waiting patiently all season to make his senior Nottinghamshire debut, Matt Milnes was a tad nervous waiting at his mark to bowl his first ball at Taunton.
Knowing what was at stake as Peter Moores’ men battled with Somerset at the top end of Specsavers Division One, the 23-year-old seamer was, momentarily, like an anxious schoolboy about to start his first day at school.
“I wasn’t that nervous in the warm-up, but once I got to the end of my mark it hit me and I found myself thinking ‘this is it’,” admits the Nottingham-born bowler.
“It was absolutely amazing after that first over was out the way, even if there are easier places to make your debut because the pitch was flat, and I loved every second of it.
“The experience is going to hold me in good stead for future games because once you get the first one out of the way, it bodes well for the future.
“I wasn’t that nervous in the warm-up, but once I got to the end of my mark it hit me and I found myself thinking ‘this is it’.”
“Hopefully there will be more to come, especially at Trent Bridge, where I haven’t played yet, and hopefully on a bit more of a bowler-friendly track.”
Despite the disappointment of an eventual six-wicket defeat – which saw the visitors lose top spot in the four-day standings – Milnes was reasonably happy with his performance from a personal perspective.
He recorded figures of 1-54 from 16 overs in the first innings – including his first scalp as he bowled Roelof van der Merwe (pictured below) – and followed it up with 0-21 from six overs in the second innings, a spell where most onlookers agreed he was unfortunate not to add to his tally.
Former Plumtree player Milnes adds: “My figures probably won’t show that I bowled that well, but I went at threes on quite a difficult pitch and took my first wicket - and I might have had a couple more with a bit more luck.
“On the fourth morning I felt in good nick and that I could get a wicket at any stage. I thought I was going to get that big Renshaw wicket (having a strong lbw shout turned down), which would have been lovely, but it was not to be.
“I had a lot of support when everyone knew I was going to make my debut and a lot of messages when I took my first pole (wicket).
“My mum and dad had moved from where they first sat when I took my first wicket, but my brother was there and I gave him a bit of a fist pump!”
It has been a long road to his Notts debut for Milnes, who has also played for Durham University and been on the books of Durham CCC before winning a contract at Trent Bridge.
The former West Bridgford Comprehensive School student has also been forced to bide his time for a chance to shine after a clutch of wickets in the Second XI.
“I worked pretty hard to get into the first-team squad at the back end of last year and I’ve probably been in every squad bar one this year,” he says. “To be that close and not play for more than two months is difficult, but you’ve just to go back to the second team and keep taking wickets there. Then when you do eventually get that chance, then you have to impress and do the business, which is hopefully what I did.
“To be that close and not play for more two months is difficult, but you’ve just to go back to the second team and keep taking wickets.”
“You do get disappointed, but you have to use it for motivation when you do get to play and keep taking the wickets to say “look, you should pick me”, and that’s what you have to keep doing consistently.”
Having grown up watching the likes of David Hussey and Chris Read representing the Green and Gold, Milnes is ‘living the dream’ by pulling on the kit himself.
He also still has to pinch himself at some of the players he is now working alongside week in, week out.
He says: “It means a lot to me being a Nottingham lad to get in the side. I remember playing on the outfield as a kid with my brother and then Ready (Chris Read) being on top of the balcony and chucking kit off at the end of the season with us scrambling for it. I also remember watching Dave Hussey a lot and he never seemed to fail.
“It was amazing to train and be around Ready at the back end of last year having grown up watching him. Not many people can say they have done that.
“I batted with Ross Taylor last week, which was brilliant. While he was smashing the sixes I was trying to block up one end, although I did hit my first ball for four.
“I just want to play more games now. I want to try to make myself a regular fixture in the team.”
Milnes has seen spinner Matt Carter precede him into senior side and take full advantage by taking plenty of wickets in both one and four-day cricket.
After taking 4-40 on his List A debut against Warwickshire, the Lincoln-born player captured 12 wickets in four 50-over games before taking another eight wickets – five in the first innings, three in the second – at Somerset.
“Carts has done really, really well, but at the same time I’m not surprised after what he has done in the seconds, where he didn’t bowl badly once and made batsmen look stupid at times," notes Milnes.
“The team hope is that we can get the win and make it a busy period with two more Championship games coming up.”
“It’s great to see, not just for him but others like me, including the Academy lads, to see what is possible if you perform well enough.”
Milnes – along with Carter – has been named in the 14-man squad for tomorrow’s crunch Royal London play-off game with Kent Spitfires at Trent Bridge (11am start).
They will be vying for starting berths with left-arm seamers Harry Gurney (calf) and Luke Wood (illness and groin) who proved their fitness by bowling in the Notts XI team who lost to Dan Christian’s Aboriginal XI yesterday (Tuesday).
Milnes says: “One of my other aims this season is to break into the one-day stuff, which is going to be difficult with the strong squad we have got. You never know what can happen, though, if people become unavailable or injured.
“The team hope is that we can get the win and make it a busy period with two more Championship games coming up (at Essex and under the floodlights at home to Worcestershire).
“I’m quietly confident in our ability to win the game because we have a very strong team on paper, but, as we all know, games aren’t won on paper but out there on the field, so we have to go out and prove our strengths.”
Notts Outlaws squad to face Kent: Chris Nash, Steven Mullaney (c), Riki Wessels, Harry Gurney, Luke Wood, Matt Milnes, Luke Fletcher, Matt Carter, Samit Patel, Tom Moores (wkt), Ross Taylor, Jake Ball, Billy Root, Jack Blatherwick.
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