Fresh from a successful pre-season in the Caribbean where he scored runs for the England Lions, the North and the MCC, Warwickshire’s Sam Hain has spoken to Deep Extra Cover’s Terry Wright.
Among other topics, he reveals why he and Brendan McCullum didn’t speak when the New Zealander played for the Bears.
Spring has arrived. The rain is definitely getting warmer. Supporters of English cricket can reflect on a winter of discontent – Test series losses to Australia and New Zealand only partly off-set by some one-day successes.
When it comes to assessing England’s batting line-up, few of those in situ have enhanced their reputations. Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Alastair Cook all had mixed fortunes. Even Joe Root and Dawid Malan would probably accept “OK but could have done better” on their winter report cards.
Who is waiting in the wings to step up if the patience of the selectors runs out? Might the likes of Ben Duckett, Adam Lyth or Gary Ballance get a second or third chance to establish themselves? Or is it time for some fresh faces? There’s Lancashire’s Liam Livingstone and Surrey’s Ben Foakes.
And then there is Warwickshire’s Sam Hain.
Born in Hong Kong, brought up on Australia’s Gold Coast, where his parents and his twin brother still live, Sam arrived at Edgbaston via Scotland. Ex-Bear Michael Powell spotted him when Sam was spending time at Loretto School and recommended him to Warwickshire.
When it comes to possible England selection, Hain has, in horse racing terms, come up on the rails. Unnoticed by many, he could beat others to the winning post in a photo-finish.
In the last month, Hain has averaged over 100 in three games for the England Lions against West Indies A, scored consistently in the North v South matches and then notched an unbeaten 140 for MCC v Essex in the season curtain-raiser.
All of which suggests that the batsman, who in 2014 burst on the scene aged 18 when he became the youngest man to score a first-class century for Warwickshire, may be ready for the big step-up to full international honours.
As he prepared for the coming season at Edgbaston, Sam spoke to Deep Extra Cover’s Terry Wright about his recent successes.
“I was at lunch at home on a Sunday when I got the England Lions call which I wasn’t expecting,” he said. “And by Tuesday, I was in Antigua. I was very happy with how it went out there.”
Hain marked his Lions 50-over debut with an innings of 144 that turned near-certain defeat into a chance of victory. When last man Matthew Parkinson joined him, England needed another 107 to win. Parkinson scored just 15 in their tenth-wicket century partnership. Hain hit, in total, 12 fours and five sixes. Finally, he perished to a boundary catch in a death-or-glory effort to hit the winning runs.
“It was frustrating not to get the team over the line. It took the shine and the gloss off things.”
In some ways, it could be that Hain’s hundred for MCC will prove to be of greater significance because, since that stunning Warwickshire debut, his four-day returns have diminished.
He reflected on this: “My four-day form went downhill a little bit so I haven’t spent that much time in the middle in first-class cricket recently. We had quite a few meetings in the winter about my four-day game.
“I found myself clutching at a lot of different answers trying to find the right one. In the end, what I needed to do was pretty basic. Analysing what had been going wrong, I realised that, when I got anxious at the crease, I had a tendency to fall across and play at balls I should be leaving.
“It’s been a case of going back to basics, practising including having the speed of the bowling ramped up until someone’s trying to hit me on the head and then dealing with it. It’s nice to see how well it went in Barbados (for MCC) but cricket back here in England will be a bit different. Even so, I’m feeling confident. I like where my game’s at.”
Sam could gain England recognition in any format. Does he have any preference?
“I love the thrill of T20. But there’s no skill like batting for three or four sessions. That’s proper, tough cricket.”
Earlier in the winter, Sam was a squad member for the Rangpur Riders in the Bangladesh T20 Premier League. As it happened, he never got selected for any of their games.
“Yes, it was interesting. The hotels are very nice! I spent a lot of time in my hotel room.
“We had a squad of around 25. Each team can only play five overseas players and we had 13. So chances were I wasn’t going to play but it was an opportunity I wasn’t going to let go begging. I enjoyed just seeing a different culture. You come back with a changed view on things and it makes you appreciate many aspects of life in England.
“Also, you mingle with world-class players. I remember having a drink with Brendon McCullum. When he was here at Edgbaston a couple of years ago, playing for the Bears, I didn’t speak to him because I was too scared. So to actually talk to him about batting, you can’t put a price on that.
“And if things go well this year and I go back to Bangladesh, who knows, I might get a game or two.”
Looking to the start of the season and the priorities for him and the club, Hain is clear:
“Warwickshire need to get back in Division One of the County Championship,” he said. “We are a big club and a big county. So that’s what we need to focus on.
“Personally, I just need to control those things that I can control. You can be in the best form but still get a duck. But overall, I’m confident about my red ball game and my batting in general.”
If he can achieve some early season runs, 2018 may well be the year when Hain gets that coveted full England cap. His talent is such that the only questions would seem to be when and in what format his debut will come.