It is not strictly accurate to say Jeremy Smith went away a boy and came back a man – but the North Otago cricketer certainly feels he has developed a lot.
Smith (20) is just back from five months in England, where he had a steady diet of cricket with Long Marston, a Bedfordshire club that plays in the multi-division Cherwell league.
He scored over 1000 runs in all competitions, grabbed a five-wicket bag, took a hat trick in a twenty20 game, won the club’s trophy for match-winning performance, and generally developed as a cricketer and a young man.
“I got a huge amount out of it. I learned a lot from the experience,” Smith said.
“It’s helped me in really random ways; just having to fend for myself and remembering to do my washing, ha ha.
“As a player, I feel like I’ve developed a lot. I think I’ve got more cricket knowledge now, and I feel I’ve improved my bowling.”
Smith was a regular member of the North Otago team that won the Hawke Cup last season, but hopes to use his English experience to take a step up and become a bigger contributor this summer.
“I’d love to be a big part of the Hawke Cup team this season.
“At times, last season, I’d contribute one game but go missing the next. I’d get an 80-odd or whatever and then get zero the next week.
“I really want to be a more consistent performer and take a step up for the team.”
Smith stayed with former North Otago import Simon Butler in Long Marston, a small village near Leighton Buzzard, a 45-minute train ride from London.
He was anxious at first, and scores of 1, 6 and 6 in warm-up games did little for his confidence, but he found his form when the league season began.
“It took me a couple of weeks to settle in. I think I let my nerves get the better of me. But things picked up.
“I scored 85 in my first league game, opening the batting. From there, I was pretty consistent.”
Ten half-centuries and an unbeaten 117 flowed off Smith’s bat, and he claimed five for 31 in a league game and a handy double of four for 27 (including the hat trick) and 40 not out in a T20 game.
His match-winning performance award recognised an unbeaten half-century in a game Long Marston needed to win to avoid relegation from the first division.
atmosphere, and hopes to return for another season next year.
“It’s a great club. All the guys were really welcoming and couldn’t do enough for me.”
Two Long Marston players have accompanied Smith to Oamaru. Top-order batsman Sam Bastin will play club cricket for Union and replace the departing Stephan Grobler as North Otago development officer, while wicketkeeper-batsman Zack Wade will join Smith at Albion.
While in England, Smith managed trips away to Ibiza and Berlin, and also caught some test cricket at the game’s spiritual home.