Unicorns call-up for Norfolk ace Brown

Phil BanyardNorfolk player-coach Chris Brown is hoping for a chance to face his old county Lancashire after being named in the Unicorns squad to play in this summer's new Clydesdale Bank 40 competition.Phil Banyard

Norfolk player-coach Chris Brown is hoping for a chance to face his old county Lancashire after being named in the Unicorns squad to play in this summer's new Clydesdale Bank 40 competition.

The Unicorns are a newly formed team of players without first class contracts and they will be competing alongside the 18 first class counties as well as Scotland and the Netherlands.

Off-spinner Brown, 35, made the final cut of 21 following trials at Edgbaston over the winter, after around 400 players were initially nominated from Premier Leagues around the country. He said: "It is exciting and it will be interesting to see how we do in the competition. We won't delude ourselves - we'll be playing against full-time professionals and it will be tough, particularly as we are in a strong group."

That group includes Lancashire, where Brown spent three years on the playing staff in the mid-90s. He said: "When the squad was announced I had a few texts from lads I know on the staff there and it would be nice to meet up with a few old friends.

"I have played against them before - when I was released from Lancashire in 1997 I played against them in a second team game for Glamorgan the next year and took five wickets which was obviously nice.

"If I made the final starting XI for that match it would be a great occasion for me and a good opportunity to play at a top ground."

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The other teams in the Unicorns' group are Glamorgan, Somerset, Surrey, Sussex and Worcestershire and they will play each side twice, with the top team in the group guaranteed a place in the semi-finals. The 40-over competition replaces the 50-over Friends Provident Trophy and the NatWest Pro40.

Three of the Unicorns' fixtures clash with Norfolk games, but Brown said: "If I'm in the Unicorns squad then we'd have to cross that bridge when we come to it, but I have a responsibility to play for Norfolk. Two of the games which clash are in early season when the pitches tend to be slow and green so it might be that my opportunity will come later in the summer when there's likely to be a bit more turn. There are 21 players in the squad, but the selectors have said that everyone in that squad should get a chance."

Brown is one of the more senior players in a squad which also contains former county players Carl Greenidge (Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Surrey), Wesley Durston (Somerset), Jahid Ahmed (Essex) and Chris Peploe (Middlesex), with former Somerset all-rounder Keith Parsons as the captain.

"The squad is made up of players who've had lots of experience of county cricket, players like myself who've had a taste of first class cricket and younger players," said Brown. "It's a nice mix of youth and experience - it would be pointless picking 11 players in their 30s who no longer had any ambition to become professionals. Plenty of these lads have aspirations of getting back into first class cricket and it's a great opportunity for them."

Brown, who recently passed his Level Four coaching qualification, also hopes to further his coaching experience with the Unicorns: "I did some coaching with the younger lads in a warm-up game against Worcestershire," he said. "I still see myself playing for the next two seasons, but my long term future is in coaching.

"More than anything I'm delighted that the Unicorns selectors, including Mark Alleyne and Min Patel, who both played international cricket, recognised my track record for Norfolk and the Minor Counties and think I'm good enough to play at that level."

Unicorns fixtures: May 2 Surrey (Brit Oval); May 3 Sussex (Hove); May 9 Somerset (Taunton); May 16, Glamorgan (Bournemouth); May 23 Sussex (Arundel); July 24 Lancashire (Old Trafford); July 25 Worcestershire (Kidderminster); August 8 Somerset (Exmouth); August 20 Glamorgan (SWALEC Stadium); August 22 Surrey (Wormsley); August 29 Worcestershire (New Road); August 30 Lancashire (Colwyn Bay).