Smith thrilled to be back

Tom Smith was delighted that his return to Lancashire's first eleven was also a winning one as the Red Rose demolished Surrey inside three days at Emirates Old Trafford.

In fact, that win means Tom himself has been on the winning side in consecutive Championship games. It's just the thirteen months between them that it's fair to say he didn't enjoy!

Tom's travails with his back injury and subsequent operation last season have been well documented in his new book, Boulder Rolling, which charts the rollercoaster year he endured while watching his team-mates storm to the NatWest T20 Blast trophy and achieve promotion to division one in the Championship.

So he could be forgiven a certain amount of emotion when returning to first team action last weekend.

"I tried not to think about that," said Smith, "because I if I thought about it, I might get emotional but the job is for us to win the game. I needed to do my job to make sure we got into a good position."

Fifty nine runs later, with an opening partnership of 99 with Haseeb Hameed under his belt, plus a great catch at slip and a return to bowling, the all-rounder could be pleased with how it had gone.

"It felt pretty good," he admitted. "I was a little bit nervous and it was a bit like making another debut! That first ball I wasn't quite sure about. I struggled to time it and, after watching Alviro bat, I could look a bit boring!

"But just to get back out there, was great. So I'm just really enjoying it to be honest with you. Just enjoying the moment, enjoyed opening the batting with Hass and watching Alviro and Crofty's partnership in the first innings.

Tom was impressed with his opening partner, admiring his composure and class.

"I felt like an old man walking out to bat him, I'm not going to lie!" he laughed. "He's certainly got a few years on me but you know, he's showed the class that he's got. Surrey threw some good balls at him, and there were certainly some good balls in the wicket, but he dealt with it all in his usual, nonchalant, way. Walk away and the next ball is all that counts. He's only 19 but he's certainly playing like someone many years more than that.

"He certainly looks like he's got a great, bright, future in front of him.

There was a nice moment when the players were warming up before the start of play where Karl Brown, along with the rest of the squad, could be seen congratulating Tom on his selection.

"Browny came up to me and wished me all the best, he was really good," revealed Tom.

"What we have at Lancashire is a great squad and atmosphere. No matter who is going out there to open, me, Browny, or Reecey, everyone would have gathered round willing him to do well.

"I was disappointed for Browny missing out, but he was backing me to go out there a get a big score."

Tom's return is the culmination of some incredibly hard work, and he is the first to praise all the work, help and support he has had behind the scenes from the medical and coaching staff. He also revealed in his book how he has to do a fair amount of 'relearning' and consider different roles.

"Throughout winter I've done a lot of work with Mark Chilton on a new setup which seems to be working quite nicely," he said.

"I felt I was playing well and I've felt like my game has been in good order in the second team games prior to this, so to get a chance and to go out and score some runs in this match, I'm very happy.

"During the winter we spoke about the possibility of me batting at number three and my game plan was geared up towards that, but I've really enjoyed the chance to open the batting again," he says.

"I've done it in the past-with varying degrees of success!-but I feel my game is in a lot better place to take on the challenge again."

In his book, Tom says he has a special celebration stored up for when he takes his first wicket. Is that still going to happen?

"I've got to get it first!" is his reply, with a grin. "I don't know, we'll wait and see. I can't promise anything.

That's understandable coming from a man who has learned not to take anything for granted.

And he adds: "At the end of the day, I'm just lucky to be out there playing."

Ken Grime

Boulder Rolling is out now, priced £9.00 including postage and is available online.

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Boulder Rolling is also available by post from: Max Books, Epworth House, 34 Wellington Road, Nantwich, Cheshire CW5 7BX.

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