This is Leicestershire - part 5

* In the first part of an interview with former Leicestershire CCC bowler Ryan Cummins for the ‘This is Leicestershire’ series, he talks to Communications and Cricket Logistics Manager Dan Nice about the biggest occasion of his professional career.    

Once upon a time, professional cricketers would reach all parts of the UK on the county circuit and then go to a different job over the winter. The great game of cricket has changed in terms of landscape over the years with the introduction, popularity and success of T20.

It is possible for players to travel the world to play in huge tournaments for short periods of time, experiencing different cultures, continents and changing rooms as part of the process.

Many players have exceptional records with a team – but can many say that they have a 100 per cent win record in their T20 career?

There is certainly one player on that list, and what makes Ryan Cummins’ record even more remarkable is that his sole appearance came in one of the biggest games in Leicestershire CCC’s history.

Cummins, a skilful and wholehearted seamer who signed for Leicestershire CCC after finishing his studies at Loughborough University, was called into the club’s T20 side on one occasion – the 2006 showpiece game at Trent Bridge.

What is more, Cummins was selected to come in for the team’s leading wicket-taker, Australian Adam Griffith, and was completing a number of firsts in his career. No pressure, Ryan!

While the gameplan didn’t quite go to plan from a bowling point of view, Cummins played his part in a brilliant win by taking a superb sliding catch in tricky conditions to dismiss home skipper Stephen Fleming.

“It was a very interesting day for me to say the least,” he laughed. “I had a decent List A record, I had opened the bowling and kept things tight in those games, and had been in a couple of squads for T20 cricket.

“But I had been on the bench in the first game alongside Nick Walker, a seamer who could also strike the ball cleanly, and I must admit that I didn’t think there would be any changes for the Final given the team’s performance against Essex.

“Daz [Darren] Maddy was the first person who actually mentioned the possibility about playing to me. I think the chat happened at the hotel between games. Everyone was chilling out at the time between games, and the next thing I spoke to [Senior Coach] Tim Boon, and he told me that I was playing!

“It was a bit of a baptism of fire, mainly because it was a few firsts for me. It was my first T20 game, my first floodlit game, my first final, and the first time I had played in front of that many people. It was also raining quite heavily at times, to add to the drama.

“It’s fair to say that the execution of my bowling skills didn’t go as I wanted it to, but I managed to take the catch off Snapper [Jeremy Snape], that of Stephen Fleming, which was a crucial part of the game.”

Whereas everyone at the club remembers the day for two superb performances against Notts and Essex - and a second trophy win in three years - many outside the Fischer County Ground have memories of the final ball of the fixture.

As the rain poured down at Trent Bridge, the ball slipped out of Jim Allenby’s hand as it headed towards Will Smith. Although Notts required an impossible amount off one individual delivery, a no-ball would have totally changed the equation given that Smith sent it over the ropes.

That outcome would have been extremely harsh on the Foxes - particularly given the conditions - but also because of the fact that they had wrestled control of the game following Cummins’ catch.

The Outlaws had controlled the pace of the chase under the guidance of Fleming, but as so often was the case, captain Jeremy Snape changed the tempo during a typically canny spell of off-spin bowling.

“It was a bittersweet experience for me overall,” said Cummins. I would have liked my economy rate to have been better, but I was playing in what felt like an Exhibition game in front of a full house and we won the trophy.

“I know a few people felt that the final ball from Jimmy [Allenby] was a no-ball, but we got ourselves ahead of the game and played a fair amount of it with rain coming down.

“It was an unbelievable team performance to beat Notts on their own ground and we felt that we deserved to win. We stayed with friends and family until late at Trent Bridge, and carried on celebrating at the hotel. It was great to share that moment with everyone.

“The catch is still talked about now but I don’t remember that much about it. Luckily it wasn’t directly out of the floodlights, I saw it all of the way and had decent visibility, but I slightly misjudged it. I went with a leg first dive, and fortunately didn’t have too much time to think about it. My memory is mainly just that my teammates were swamping me.

“We could definitely be described as a team where the parts added up. I remember Paul Harrison, who I had played with at Loughborough University, batting at four ahead of Snapper, Sads [John Sadler] and Nico [Paul Nixon] in the Final, getting a few runs towards the end alongside Daz, and then playing a key part in a run out. That run out and my catch were two crucial moments of the game when you look back.

“From the inside, I had bowled well in List A situations, and Harry [Paul Harrison] had batted well and shown a lot of promise. It may have seemed strange from the outside, but it wasn’t a complete punt to us as a team. The stats were behind us and we had strength in depth.”

An example of the Foxes doing their homework in a bid to outdo the opposition came when you examine the spin statistics from the semi-final.

Whereas Essex CCC left out Andy Flower, arguably one of the finest players of spin in his generation with his ability to play strokes developed from a successful career in hockey, Nixon swept and reverse-swept the life out of the Eagles’ slow men.

It wasn’t just the fact that a few strokes came off, it was that Nixon was able to alternate the strokeplay and execute his plan with military precision. It became nigh-on impossible to set a field; for even had Essex CCC covered off the strokes behind square - which proved a challenge in itself - Nixon would then have looked to go squarer or a lot straighter.

So whereas Snape took four for 22 off four overs and Henderson one for 25 off three, Tim Phillips and James Middlebrook went for 49 off their combined four overs. Details like that helped to secure an impressive victory against a strong Essex CCC side.

Cummins said: “Snapper was captain and instrumental in T20, he’d focus on hitting strongly down the ground when batting, and obviously developed the moon ball, which he became renowned for.

“But it wasn’t about one particular thing, he was just trying to stay one step of the game. He would start bowling every ball at a slightly different time, and dictated the pace of the game. He could read the situation of the game and the second guessing allowed him to have a lot of success. He was very shrewd.

“We were a good unit, with Jimmy Allenby and Daz Maddy offering decent medium pace, Claude Henderson being a master of his craft, and then we had Nico [Paul Nixon] and all of his shots and theories.

“His reverse-sweeping was a big part of the gameplan and paid off massively during Finals Day. The way he played the left arm spinner Tim Phillips was crucial, it wasn’t just the reverse-sweeping in itself, it was the way he kept hitting it finer and then squarer, manipulating the field brilliantly.

“We had the same plans for Samit Patel in the Final but he didn’t bowl, so Notts must have been aware of our plans. It was a really good experience for me, and although I was a much better bowler later on, it turned out to be my only T20 game. It wasn’t a bad one though.

“I think as you get older you learn more about the best options and learn to ride the good with the bad. But we had a good side with lots of options, players like Gibbo, Broady kicking on, Adam Griffith had been very good that year, and we also had Mohammad Asif come to join us.”

* In the second part of the interview with Ryan Cummins, the seamer talks about his path to the club, playing alongside Foxes Head Coach Paul Nixon, and what happened after his cricket career sadly came to a premature end due to injury.