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.
“I went to the first day of a Lord’s test, England v Pakistan. That was awesome. I saw Misbah-ul-Haq bring up his hundred.”