It’s been a frustrating winter for Northants’ Olly Stone after a stress fracture to his back forced him to withdraw from the England Performance Programme.
Now back fully fit, the 22-year-old is looking to build on his reputation as one of county cricket’s most promising quick bowlers.
A breakthrough season last summer saw Stone take 38 Championship wickets and he caught the eye with speeds touching 90mph in televised games, earning him a call-up to the squad of young quicks that spent a spell in South Africa before Christmas, only to have to withdraw.
Stone was supposed to get his season underway with Northants today, but a Grade One side muscle tear kept him out of action before the season opener.
“It was unfortunate to find out I had a stress fracture but we’ve found out it’s all settled at the moment,” he said before picking up his latest injury.
“So hopefully that’s not an issue this year and I can move on and hopefully not have any injuries.
“It would have been a great experience for me, I was disappointed but I think it came at the right time, if ever there is a right time to get an injury, to miss out in the winter and be ready for Northants this season.
“I was disappointed but hopefully that wasn’t the only chance I’ll get and they’ll be more opportunities.”
After showing signs of promise since making a first-class debut in 2012, last year was a real breakthrough year for the Norfolk-born seamer, as he played a major part in helping the Steelbacks to the Natwest T20 Blast final, as well as enjoying a successful Royal London One-Day Cup campaign.
As his reputation grows, so does his importance to Northants, and Stone is more than happy to take the responsibility of leading the club’s pace attack, alongside overseas signing Rory Kleinveldt.
“It’s always something I’ve wanted to do and with the experience of Rory and the others to help push me along, hopefully I can take that role and performances to it, I’d love to be that figurehead of the team,” he continued.
“I put in some good performances, especially in white ball cricket, I felt that was an area I needed to improve on so was happy to go out there and perform.
“To hit that 90mph mark in a couple of games was really pleasing and hopefully I can come out and do the same.
“Forty wickets is sort of looked at quite highly, I was two short of that last year so hopefully I can get 40 wickets in red-ball cricket this year.
“You never know in white-ball cricket as it’s so up and down but I have got my little targets we work towards.
“Obviously the small squad doesn’t help but it’s similar to last year and we seemed to cope alright, Rips [head coach David Ripley] is very good with rotating the squad and giving us rests when we need it and, if everyone performs the way we can, hopefully we’ll have some good results and get to some finals again.”
David Willey rose through the Northants academy to make an England debut last year, and Stone said he and the rest of Northants’ talented crop of youngsters can take inspiration from their former teammate, and know that they will get a chance if good enough.
After catching the England selectors’ eye at the end of last season, Stone is hoping a strong start to the new campaign can keep him in contention, as he targets a place in the Lions squad this summer.
“I got on really well with Dave and managed to speak to him over winter, it’s great to see him doing well and hopefully there’s a few more of us here and around the counties who can push through and help the England game move forwards.
“There’s an England A series in the summer so obviously that’d be great to be involved in if my performances go well, if not I’ll keep working hard and hopefully be picked for an England program in the winter, but definitely the series in the summer is something I’m pushing towards.”