Olly Stone keen for another first class opportunity with Northamptonshire
Headingley has seen some memorable cricketing moments over the years – and for Norfolk teenager Olly Stone it is a ground he will never forget.
The 18-year-old Vauxhall Mallards pace bowler made his first class debut for Northamptonshire against Yorkshire at the Test venue last week and while his figures were not quite in the realms of Bob Willis circa 1981, the taste of action has left Stone with a hunger for more.
'It was an amazing experience, especially being at a Test match ground and it's made me even more determined to keep doing well and to try and get another chance,' said Stone, who took one for 76 from 16 overs in the rain-affected draw.
Stone, who made his Norfolk debut last summer, had previously played in a Twenty20 match for Northants and three days before his first class bow he featured in the Clydesdale Bank 40 defeat against Warwickshire, bowling 3.4 overs in a lost cause.
'I was told after the one-day game that I would be in the squad to travel to Yorkshire, but it wasn't until the evening before the game that they told me to be prepared because there was quite a high chance I would be playing,' he said.
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'I was pretty relaxed and didn't worry too much, although I was a bit nervous when I woke up in the morning.'
Batting at number 10, Stone made 13 in a 25-ball stay at the crease on the opening day, before being introduced into the attack in the 19th over of the Yorkshire reply on day two.
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'There were a few nerves then, with it being at Headingley and there was quite a big crowd for a Championship match,' said Stone. 'But everyone got behind me and I just thought to myself that I had to run up and bowl how I know I can. My first ball was on a good length and was defended and the second one found an edge which went along the ground, so after that first over I felt quite encouraged to keep plugging away.'
The former Thorpe St Andrew High School pupil did not have long to wait for his maiden first class wicket – and it came with a helping hand from a fellow Norfolk fast bowling product.
Former Norfolk opening bowler Martin Saggers, who was born in King's Lynn and went on to play three Tests for England, was standing as umpire at Stone's end having been promoted to the full list of first class umpires in the winter.
And when a straight delivery from Stone trapped Yorkshire skipper Andrew Gale in front, Saggers raised his finger: 'I was really chuffed,' said Stone. 'It was a massive relief getting that first wicket.'
A second victim did not materialise as England batsman Jonny Bairstow joined Joe Root in a fourth wicket stand of 147, but Stone was still satisfied with his display: 'The coach said to me that I bowled really well and I had not let myself down,' he said. 'They told me they were encouraged by what they had seen and just to keep working hard. Jack Brooks and Chaminda Vaas who are obviously more experienced have come back into the side now because they are fit again, but if there are more injuries or a lapse in form and I've been going well in the second team hopefully I'll get another chance.'
Stone admits the Headingley experience was a steep, but valuable, learning curve: 'There's quite a big difference just in the way batsman hit the ball,' he said. 'The margin for error is much less even than playing for the second team, especially as Yorkshire had a few England Lions players, as well as Jonny Bairstow who is in the Test side. If you bowl anything off a good mark they punish it well.
'I learned a hell of a lot, especially in terms of how to prepare for a game like that and about being professional and the little things like rehydrating properly afterwards, because it can take a toll on you.'
Stone completes his BTEC National Diploma in Sport in Northampton next month, and hopes to feature in his home county over the course of the summer. 'I'm playing for the Northants Academy side on Saturdays, but I have got a few weekends off, so it would be nice to get back and play,' he said. 'I'd like to play in some of the Twenty20 games for Mallards as well, although I think the Norfolk games clash with some Northants second team games, so we will have to see.'