From National Counties to first-class cricket with help from an umpire

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Ben Gibbon was playing National Counties cricket when a phone number from an umpire set him on the path to first-class cricket
Ben Gibbon was playing National Counties cricket when a phone number from an umpire set him on the path to first-class cricket

Ben Gibbon has umpire Mansoor Qereshi to thank for making the transition from National Counties cricket with Cheshire to bowling at World Test Champions New Zealand.

Left-arm swing bowler Gibbon took five for 43 against Wiltshire in a National Counties Championship match at Alderley Edge last August, and impressed  Qereshi who was standing at his end.

Qereshi, who is Birmingham-based, took Gibbon’s contact details and passed them on to Kadeer Ali, the former Staffordshire captain who is now Worcestershire’s Second XI coach and suggested that they should take a look at the Cheshire youngster.

Two weeks later, Gibbon was invited to play for Worcestershire in a Second XI friendly against Leicestershire at Stourport-on-Severn and made such a good impression that he was soon offered a contract.

“Mansoor, the umpire from the end I bowled from at Alderley Edge, handed my number to Worcestershire and they then asked me to play for their second team at Stourport a couple of weeks later,” Gibbon said.

“It all happened very quickly. Worcestershire didn’t have a left-armer and I thought that if I put in a couple of good performances I would have half-a-chance.

“Luckily enough I bowled OK in that match and got signed a couple of weeks later.”

Having given up his job as a labourer in Stoke to become a full-time cricketer Gibbon, 22, made his first-class debut against Durham at New Road in May.

He took two wickets in the first innings, both of them Test players – Keegan Petersen and Scott Borthwick – and added another, Pakistan opener Shan Masood, in the draw with Derbyshire at Derby a week later.

Gibbon was left out of the side for Worcestershire’s next match against Leicestershire at New Road but was selected to play for a First-Class Counties Select XI that took on New Zealand at Chelmsford the following weekend.

The match did not have first-class status but Gibbon enjoyed the opportunity to test himself against a Test Match side and took five wickets in the match – including opener Tom Latham twice – to help inflict a seven wickets defeat on the Black Caps.

“I have always had in the back of mind that I wanted to play professional cricket but two years ago I decided that I was going to enjoy my cricket and doing that on Saturday and then for Cheshire helped me to relax and it has benefited my game,” Gibbon said.

“Playing against New Zealand was a great experience, just to test myself for four days against international players. I really enjoyed it.

“It was nice to get a few wickets – two in the first innings and three in the second. I want to get a few wickets under my belt in first-team cricket here and kick on.

“On the morning of the Leicestershire game at New Road I got left out and the head coach here, Alex Gidman, said I was unlucky not to be playing in the game but I had been selected to play against New Zealand the following week. So, it was good and bad news.

“I’m enjoying it here at Worcestershire. Getting a couple of wickets in that first game settled the nerves a bit. Hopefully I can play a bit more first team cricket in the rest of the season.

“But even when we are not playing we are in training or in the gym so I feel like my game has improved a lot in my time here.”

Gibbon is the latest in a long line of players to graduate from Cheshire to the first-class game with Ben Aitchison (Derbyshire), Danny Lamb and Rob Jones (Lancashire) and Jack White (Northamptonshire) all having developed during their time in National Counties cricket and Harry Dearden having returned to the county this season after six with Leicestershire.

“Playing National Counties cricket gave me the opportunity to play a standard that was between club level and the first-class games,” Gibbon said.

“There are always a good pros in National Counties sides and it’s good to test yourself against them.

“I’ve been playing for Cheshire since I was 17 and it’s a standard up from league cricket.

“Playing three-day cricket, 50 overs and T20 cricket regularly really improves your cricket. We were competing every year in all formats, so we had a good side and I loved it.”

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