Taste of sledging for Jaik

Phil Banyard Former Bungay High School student Jaik Mickleburgh is looking forward to putting his winter experiences in Australia and Dubai to good use as the 2008 season approaches.

Phil Banyard

Former Bungay High School student Jaik Mickleburgh is looking forward to putting his winter experiences in Australia and Dubai to good use as the 2008 season approaches.

The Horsford all-rounder spent four months Down Under playing for Newtown & Chilwell in Victoria as part of his academy professional contract with Essex.

When he returned, he was off to Dubai with the Essex senior squad to take part in the Pro Arch tournament, where Andrew Flintoff also made his long-awaited comeback for Lancashire.

“It went really well in Australia,” said Mickleburgh. “The standard was pretty similar to the East Anglian Premier League, and I trained hard off the field and worked hard on my fitness.

“I took a few wickets although I would have hoped for a few more, as well as a few more runs, but it was a big learning

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curve and hopefully now I will come back and do certain things differently to help me improve.”

Mickleburgh averaged just over 18 with the bat - with a top score of 42 - and claimed 11 wickets after sending down 95 overs. The 18-year-old hopes the latter part of those figures will encourage his captains at club and county level to throw him the ball more often in 2008.

“I didn't bowl much last year,” he said. “But going out there and spending time in the gym, strengthening my body, enabled me to bowl that amount of overs.”

His captain at Horsford, Norfolk coach Chris Brown, has already indicated that Mickleburgh's bowling will be tested in the EAPL this season and if he impresses, his seamers could provide a useful addition to the county bowling unit.

How much he is available for Norfolk depends, of course, on his involvement with Essex. As an academy professional, he has been attending pre-season nets with the Essex first team squad, as well as featuring in several of the games in Dubai.

“I had 11 or 12 days out there and it was great being part of the squad, being around the professionals and getting to know them,” he said.

“I played in one game, against Ireland, but I fielded in most of the matches. It is a different tempo in the professional game but hopefully I showed them what I could do in the field.

“I've spoken to Carl Rogers (Norfolk captain) and Chris Brown about the situation. I'm going on tour with Norfolk to Holland and I'm hoping to be able to play in the one-day matches at the start of the season, and then we'll see how things go.

“I think I've been pencilled in for some second XI matches with Essex this year and they are often from Tuesday to Thursday which might clash with some of Norfolk's three-day games, but hopefully I can play.”

Mickleburgh also seems to have made a positive impression with his winter hosts, as Newtown & Chilwell secretary Warwick Hadfield explained: “Jaik is a very talented cricketer, no doubt about that. He held down the number three batting spot at our club and more than once opened the bowling.

“There wasn't another 17-year-old in the competition charged with those sorts of responsibilities. Normally players of that age in our competition bat well down the order and bowl when the sting has gone out of the game.

“He is very mature, and was a popular member of the club pretty much from the day he arrived.

“This was confirmed at the end of his stay when he seemed to be having a farewell every night for the fortnight before he left! We hear a whisper he would like to come back. We would have him.”

Not that everyone Down Under was pleased to see him, as Mickleburgh, felt the full force of some traditional Australian sledging: “It happened quite a few times, there was quite a bit of it going around,” said the teenager.

“It was different stuff, but generally it was about me being English!”