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Mark Ealham: Young fast bowlers give Spitfires firepower

Sunday 14th June 2015

Men’s First Team

With eight England Test caps and 64 ODI appearances to his name, Kent’s bowling coach Mark Ealham is fully qualified to run the rule over the county’s crop of young bowlers.

Ealham, who also won the County Championship title with Nottinghamshire following a long and illustrious career with Kent, is quietly confident that the rookie members of the county’s seam attack are continuing to make good progress.

“We saw during the World Cup last winter the importance of bowlers executing their skills to the maximum under pressure and it was no surprise to me that Australia, the team with the most consistent attack, won the tournament,” said Ealham.

“Sure, it helps if you’re bowling 90mph in-swingers, but even at county level the same skills and consistency levels are needed if a side is to be successful. And that’s what I tell our younger lads.

"There will always be a place for them in the one-day side if they can execute their skills when under the cosh out in the middle.”

Ealham says clear pre-match planning and delegating responsibility and the role each bowler takes in the one-day side is equally critical when shaping a successful side.

“You need to define clearly which guys you want at the death, who takes responsibility in the powerplays and the characters who can keep it tight in the middle overs,” he explained.

“We want them all to practice their skills and hone their yorkers, so we have more people to turn to for each scenario, but I believe it’s best not to overcomplicate things.

"It’s easy to try to over-defend in games and to forget that winning matches is actually all about taking wickets.”

As for the make-up of the Spitfires’ attack and the key characters involved, Ealham added: “We saw last season that David Griffiths and Mitch Claydon are our best death bowlers.

"Matt Coles will always take on that responsibility too, but ‘Griff’ is slippery and bowls great yorkers. He’s tough to get away in those final overs and is always likely to pick up a few wickets.

“Your guys through the middle tend to be your experienced, wise heads like ‘Tredders’ and ‘Stevo’, with the keeper up to the stumps. They are past masters of the art. You’d also maybe look to someone like Adam Ball through the middle overs, to give him a little protection from the field.

“Adam is bowling really nicely with the red ball right now, so the challenge for him is to transfer that form to the white ball matches.

"He’s also batting really nicely and has the potential to bat top five, and he’s a top slip fielder too. I’ve done slip fielding drills with Ball, Adam Riley and Alex Blake and it was like hitting a ball onto fly-paper. They’ve grown up with each other and trust each other in the cordon.”

Ealham added: “As for Ivan Thomas, he quite naturally seems to bowl that awkward length. I call it the Morne Morkel length that batsmen really don’t like or feel comfortable with.

“After suffering some long-term injuries over the past couple of years Ivan’s just starting to get stronger and fitter. He bowled all winter in Australia for the Sunshine Coast Scorchers, so he’s now the strongest we’ve ever seen him.

“The flip side of that is that’s he’s so keen he’s always wanting to bowl, so the coaching team are doing our best to manage his time. If we can do that, with his natural talent he will only get better.”

Ealham has also been involved with some technical fine tuning with Calum Haggett, the former England Under-19 all-rounder. He explained: “We’ve been working on his back-foot contact, making his landing foot come down more strongly in the crease because he’d been twisting on his toes.

“He went away after Christmas and felt good, but picked up an injury in pre-season which, until recently, set him back a little. Like Ivan, I see him improving further as the season goes on.”

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