Mickleburgh ready to battle for Essex place

FORMER Bungay High School pupil Jaik Mickleburgh is prepared to battle for a regular place in the Essex side this summer.

Mickleburgh, 21, spent the winter honing his skills in Australia and has returned determined to build on his achievements last year, when he struck his maiden first-class century for Essex.

He faces more competition for places this year with the arrival at Chelmsford of England international Owais Shah, but is relishing the challenge and hopes to be involved when Essex begin their County Championship campaign against Kent today.

“We’ve spoken about the fact that everyone is in good nick and that it is healthy competition,” he said. “I’ve had to work harder than ever this year, I’ll admit that.

“I’ve spent more hours on the bowling machine and practising than ever. You’ve just got to put in your very best and hope that you are included in the squad.

“I was pleased with the way it went last year. I got a lot out of playing a full county season. There were times when I did struggle, but the coaches showed faith in me which was very pleasing and I think I’m all the better for it. Hopefully this year if I get in those sticky situations again I can learn from my experiences and kick on and secure a place in the side.”

Mickleburgh spent the winter at the Darren Lehmann Academy in Australia and played for Adelaide Cricket Club.

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He added: “It just gave me a chance to go away, work on all areas of my game and to put some hours of practice in. The aim was to come back a better player which I feel I have done.”

There was also the chance to revel in England’s Ashes success Down Under and Mickleburgh added: “I went to the Adelaide Test and the Melbourne Boxing Day Test – it was a good time to be out there as an Englishman! Myself and Scott Borthwick from Durham, who was also at the academy, went on the morning of some of the days and did some training with a few of the England lads who weren’t playing, which was all good experience.”

Mickleburgh could potentially find himself opening the innings for Essex alongside Ashes hero Alastair Cook in the early weeks of the season, having been used by the county in that role last summer. He said: “My ideal position would be three or four, but we’ve got a lot of high profile players in our side who are going to secure those spots.

“Part of me wants to have that role, but cricket’s a game where you’ve got to be able to bat anywhere.

“If for instance, come Friday there’s a spot opening the batting and it’s offered to me I’ll be snapping their hands off to take it. As long as you’re in the side and you can perform in the role you’re given, that’s the main thing.”