Alex Blake: Q&A

Wednesday 11th July 2012

Men’s First Team

Alex Blake: Q&A

Despite Kent Spitfires failing to qualify for a Friends Life t20 quarter-final spot, there is still plenty for the St Lawrence Ground faithful to smile about. Opener Sam Billings proved he has all the attributes needed to become a fine player, Sam Northeast continues to be an integral part of the Kent limited-overs side and Adam Ball has developed his all-round game.

Another one of Kent’s starlets – Alex Blake – had to wait slightly longer to make an impression but the left-hander played a couple of eye-catching knocks at the end of the group matches, most notably at the Kia Oval last Thursday. The 48-run win momentarily kept the Spitfires hopes of qualification alive, and Blake enjoyed the chance to shine in front of a bumper crowd, and the Sky Sports cameras:

How much did you enjoy the challenge at the Oval?

It was great fun. We played well as a side and it was good to get the win.

A crowd of 13,500 watched. Matches between Kent and Surrey are always well subscribed. What was it like?

Well there was a good atmosphere – there always is when we play Surrey. Both of the teams are close to each other so there is good rivalry. It was enjoyable to play under the lights and great to get the points.

The 23 year-old claimed the man of the match award in South London that night, after an enterprising innings helped Kent up to a respectable total of 136 for eight. Blake showed a vast repertoire of shots, including a powerful reverse sweep and a thunderous hit over the cover boundary, for the only six of the night, to provide a glimpse into his ability – something which the all-rounder hopes will keep him in the first-team picture.

You scored a 26-ball 35, which led to being named man of the match. What did that honour mean to you?

It was the first time that I have been named man of the match so I was over the moon. I felt it could’ve gone to a few people; Keysy batted well and the bowlers did well too so it was extra special to be awarded the honour. It was great to get an opportunity and it was only my second game of this competition. The first one (at home to Middlesex Panthers) didn’t go as well; I was run out without facing a ball. With such strong competition for places, I was keen to make much more of a contribution at the Oval and helping the team to a win will hopefully help my chances of staying involved in the CB40.

Kent batted first, did you think you had enough at the halfway stage?

No. I felt we were 20 short so the bowlers did really well to defend the 135 we put on the board. It wasn’t your typical Surrey wicket. It was a bit dry, there was a bit more turn than usual and we were able to get early wickets, which proved crucial. Adam Riley then did really well then in the innings. We took wickets at regular intervals and it meant that they were always behind the rate.

Blake entered the fray at 67 for four, against the Lions, and showed great maturity in keeping Kent in the game. A middle-order role seems to suit the powerful hitter and he was clearly happy to make a telling contribution.

You are batting down the order. Do you enjoy it?

Coming in at six, you don’t usually get that many overs. You need to get going from ball one but against Surrey I got a bit of time to get myself in and knock it around. I was then able to take it from there. It was good to get in a bit earlier and I was pleased to take the opportunity that was presented to me.

The former Leeds & Bradford MCCU student has struggled to retain a starting place in the Kent side so far this season having been restricted to a handful of CB40 and t20 appearances. Despite his spell on the sidelines, Blake knows a glut of runs in a hungry second XI can help him knock on the door for a first-team place.

You haven’t had that many opportunities this season, has it been hard for you?

Yes, it has been pretty tough. The first team is going really well – especially in the LV= County Championship so breaking into the side has proved difficult. I realise that I have to keep scoring runs, for the second team, and then take my opportunity when it comes up.

Is there extra pressure on you, knowing that you have to perform when you come into the side?

Yes, without doubt. You do think about that when you come in for one off games. The emphasis is to always do well because lots of people want the shirt and we are all pushing our case. Daniel Bell-Drummond hasn’t got a go yet and he is doing well in the second team. Ben Harmison is also waiting for a place in the one-day side so you know you have to grab your chance because there are others always fighting for an opportunity.

Last season, the county had no choice but to be over-reliant on the younger players at the Club. However, a clever recruitment drive over the winter months allowed an experienced backbone to be introduced, into the side, which has resulted in more competition for places. Blake is one of those younger players who may have to be patient in waiting for a first-team opportunity, but he certainly isn’t complaining about the strength in depth now on offer.

Is it good to have competition for places?

Of course it is, yes. It is healthy in whatever sport as it makes you enhance your game and work even harder. Having a bigger, more experienced squad has proved a boost to the Club and made us stronger as a unit.

Blake has a fine mentor now in the form of West Indian Jimmy Adams, with the Head Coach already stamping his own methods on the Kent side. This is something that Blake has been impressed with and he is delighted to be learning from such a distinguished character.

Finally, how much have you enjoyed playing under Jimmy Adams?

Jimmy has been great for us. He is thorough in his approach and has proved good for the younger players. Personally, I have enjoyed working with him because he is a fellow left-hander and is good to talk to. He has particularly helped me with my one-day game. We have discussed scoring options and just working the ball around. He is very relaxed in the dressing room and doing a good job for the Club.