An Interview with England U19s Captain and Kent All-rounder, Adam Ball

Thursday 28th July 2011

Men’s First Team

Kent Spitfires’ all-rounder and England U19s captain, Adam Ball has combined county cricket with schoolwork this summer. He talks Freddie Flintoff and sympathetic headmasters…

One of the latest players to come off the Kent Academy conveyor belt is talented all-rounder Adam Ball. Having made his England Under-19 Test debut last summer, Ball, who only turned 18 in March, has been a regular in the Kent first team this term and has caught the eye with his left-arm pace and attractive stroke play.

With a raft of youngsters getting their chance to shine at the St Lawrence Ground this summer, Ball was handed his first-class debut against Gloucestershire back in April. Ball announced his arrival by top-scoring as Kent were dismissed cheaply, hitting a determined, two-hour 46, going in at No 9.

“I’ve been given a chance in the first-team and things are going well for me,” he says. “I feel I’ve gone well with the bat in championship matches and with the ball in one-day cricket. I’m really pleased to get my opportunity and know that I need to keep performing well to keep my place in the side. I’m working hard on my batting, bowling and fielding. I feel my batting has really 
developed. I worked hard with [Academy head] Simon Willis over the winter and I’m pleased that people are now starting to view me as a genuine all-rounder.”

Indeed, Ball has
prospered more with bat than ball in his Championship outings to date, averaging 25 and 60 respectively as he finds his feet at the top level. Ball first came to prominence when he impressed in the Under 19 World Cup for England in New Zealand – at the age of 16 – and was soon rewarded with his first professional contract at Kent. After bursting onto the scene, Ball was compared to an Australian all-rounder but the man himself would prefer to follow in the footsteps of one of England’s greatest performers.

“When I first started to push on, I was likened to Mitchell Johnson, because I’m a left-arm bowler and a number eight bat. Now, I want people to liken me to Andrew Flintoff. He was one of the best all-rounders in world cricket; a front-line bowler and a top six batter. That’s where I would like to be in the years to come.”

Ball’s promising knock of 46 was followed up with a score of 30, against Northants, proving his all-round capabilities and he puts this down to the hard yards he put in with the Kent coaching staff over the winter: “Wilco [Simon Willis) worked hard with me on my batting. He knows my game inside-out and is good to work with. I haven’t worked that closely with specific bowling coaches but have learnt by watching and listening. The likes of Simon Cook and Azhar Mahmood are always there to talk to and have offered some sound advice.”

With such a mature outlook, it’s hard to believe that Ball is still at school. For the early stages of the season he was juggling his studies with playing for Kent, preparing for A-levels in PE, Biology and Maths.

“The head teacher at Beths Grammar School, Mr 
Skinner, has been great with me and allowed me to take days off where
 necessary. I realise it is 
important to concentrate on my studies but I love playing cricket and have the best of both worlds.

“I have received lots of support over the years from a range of different people. When I first got involved with Bexley, Richard O’Sullivan was my coach. He helped me with my game and I looked up to him. I would also like to thank [sports teacher] Mr Temple, and everyone else that has helped me, for all of their help and advice.”

As a local lad, Ball is proud to be playing for his home county and says his parents are beaming at his progress: “The family love my involvement with the Kent first team. Dad has been at every game watching and mum enjoys it too. We have just moved house but mum will start getting back into it again now and hopefully I can continue to perform and make them proud of my achievements.”

With Kent’s reduced playing squad for the 2011 season, several youngsters have been given an incentive to make a name for themselves in the first-team. Ball is particularly close to his Bexley team-mate, Adam Riley, as he explains: “Adam and I are both making our way and getting a good
opportunity. We are both experiencing the same things and enjoying being around the dressing room with the older boys, getting to know them.

“Both of us are experiencing good and bad days. It certainly helps that we have each other to talk to as we can encourage and give advice. Moving forward,
I want to keep improving and gain a permanent spot in the first-team.”

During the Friends Life t20 campaign, big crowds are watching the Kent Spitfires and Ball is hoping to make a name for himself in the one-day side: “I probably prefer the one-day game because I have played a bit more of it and have greater
experience. I am still learning in the championship and am thoroughly enjoying it. I need to keep pushing on and will work hard to make sure that I give myself the best opportunity.”

After a taste of international cricket with the England Under-19 team, Ball is hungry for more and gunning for the very top. “Long-term I would love to represent England in Test matches or one-day cricket. I have the experience of playing for the Under-19’s and would love to represent the full national side.

“We have the Under-19 World Cup again next year so we will have a good crack at that. Before that, we have South Africa coming over this winter so that should be a great series.”

Ball is an all-round sportsman and played for Arsenal’s age-group teams from Under-9s to Under-12s. His terrace
 sympathies lie elsewhere, however. “I’m a big Charlton Athletic fan but I haven’t seen too much of them recently. I went to the Valley quite a few times before Christmas but we stopped going mid-season. I think we will start up again this coming season and hopefully they will do a little bit better.”

Ball is currently captaining the England Under-19 team in the one day series against South Africa. The team,which includesKent's Daniel Bell-Drummondwillface theSouth African Under-19 teamat the St Lawrence Ground on Thursday 28th July and Saturday 30th July – entry is £5.