England hopes still alive for Norfolk cricket star Olly Stone
PUBLISHED: 15:41 25 November 2015 | UPDATED: 15:41 25 November 2015
Hopes of playing cricket for England are on the back burner for Norfolk cricket star Olly Stone - as the bowler begins a winter of patience and recuperation.
The former Thorpe St Andrew School pupil was due to fly out to South Africa for an England Performance Programme specialist bowling camp earlier this month but was forced to drop out.
The 22-year-old Northamptonshire right-armer has a stress fracture in his back which needs rest to heal fully, so was advised to miss the camp and the following England Lions Twenty20 series with Pakistan A.
He will also sit out a one-day series against Pakistan A in January and focus on returning to full fitness for Northants ahead of next season – to ensure he continues his rapid progress from this year.
The Brundall-born bowler hopes that another Lions call will then follow, saying: “The next big thing is to be involved in that and hopefully I’ll be lucky enough and good enough to represent the full England side.
“With the way it’s going, there’s going to be a few people retiring in the next few years so that will create opportunities and I need to be in position to push my name into the frame.
“It’s been a dream ever since I was growing up, to play for my country, so that would be really nice.”
After enjoying his ‘breakthrough’ season Stone is now facing a test of his patience.
The former England Under-19s captain will instead be spending much of his winter resting his back problem – before looking to become even more influential for Northants in 2016.
Stone is ‘a proper Norfolk boy’
Demands on his time may have increased greatly last season but that didn’t prevent Olly Stone from making it back to play for his Norfolk club side.
Stone featured in the East Anglian Premier League four times for Vauxhall Mallards, based at Halvergate, near Acle, the club where he played his junior cricket before signing for Northants at 17.
The bowler took one for 12 in a home win against Copdock and Old Ipswichian in August – but it didn’t all go to plan.
“I went for two golden ducks and didn’t bat in one of the games and only scored 12 in the other, so it didn’t really go to plan!” Stone said with a laugh.
“But it’s nice to get back to spend time with the people I grew up with. I try and get back as much as I can and Mallards is a good club so I always enjoy it. Every chance I get I try and come home to see mum and dad and my family and friends I’ve known growing up, so I would very much say I’m a proper Norfolk boy.”
“Hopefully it’s not a problem in terms of the long run. I’ve got a stress fracture, which I’ve had before when I was 17, just on my vertebrae above where I had it before,” Stone explained.
“So I’ve just got to rest and do low level stuff until Christmas and then start building up again after Christmas, so it’s not a dramatic problem.
“I’ve just got to try to be as patient as I can be. I’m not allowed to be too active, which is a bit of a problem for me!
“Obviously I’m disappointed not to be able to go because I had a good first main season being in the side and got the recognition for that.
“So it was a good achievement and hopefully if I’m fit and properly ready to go then hopefully I’ll have this opportunity again.”
That meant the Brundall-born right-arm medium-fast bowler was able to return to Norfolk recently to pick up the Male Sports Personality of the Year gong at the Norfolk Sports Awards.
Stone was chosen following a strong season for Northants, taking 38 wickets in the 11 County Championship Division Two matches he played, finishing with an average of 28.13 runs per wicket.
“I’d definitely say it was my breakthrough season and I loved it,” Stone reflected. “Actually playing on (Natwest T20 Blast) Finals Day, rather than being 12th man, was probably one of the best days of the season.
“So for me to be able to say I’ve done that, I couldn’t really ask for more.”
He had finished the 2014 season with his maiden five-wicket haul in a Championship match against Sussex, taking five for 48 inside 20 overs, and bettered that feat this season.
The former Thorpe St Andrew School pupil took five for 44 in a 10-over spell to help Northants secure an eight-wicket victory over Kent in June.
Stone continued: “It was said (at the Norfolk Sports Awards) that I took my five wickets in six overs, and I didn’t actually realise that. So to make that much of an impact was really good for me.
“It was brilliant for me to get the best figures of my career and I’ve got that ball in my locker to keep looking back on when I need to.
“We do a thing at Northants as well where if you get a career-best you have to buy a round for the boys – so they always say make sure it’s a hard one to beat.”
After building his confidence as a first-team player, Stone is now setting his sights on impressing again in 2016, to make sure he remains in international contention.
“A massive thing for me this year was to try and stay fit for the whole season,” he added. “Obviously I’m injured now but hopefully that’s not major, so that will be one of my main aims again.
“I try not to set targets too high, just in case I don’t achieve them, but just to be a consistent part of the team and do as well as I can.
“I’ll look to reach 40 County Championship wickets, I was just short this year (with 38) so to get that and, as a team, to get back to Finals Day, or a Lords final in the 50-over stuff, more team things like that.”