THERE IS one local man with a keen eye on the second test between England and New Zealand – which gets underway today (Friday) at Headingley – and that is Gomersal-based Tony Blain.
Blain spent several years as understudy to the Kiwis’ first-choice wicket keeper, Ian Smith, who is currently commentating on the series.
The 51-year-old made 11 test appearances and faced the bowling of England’s Ian Botham, Graham Dilley and Gladstone Small on his debut, at The Oval, back in 1986.
Blain also went on to bat against Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath of Australia and Pakistan ‘swing kings’ Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram.
Yet nothing prepared him for his countrymen’s capitulation to Stuart Broad at Lords earlier this week.
“It was very disappointing,” Blain told The Press.
“We got some solid canings by Pakistan but nothing quite like what happened at Lords.
“I think the balls they used swung that bit more and we are going to struggle at Headingley if they are using the same balls.
“If it swings again the side are going to be in trouble if they can’t handle it.”
Blain is certainly speaking from experience.
Against that England attack he encountered on his debut, batting at nine, he defied the opposition for over two and a half hours for a second-highest score of 37.
He has since been described as a ‘polished right-hand batsman’ and his record shows him to have made 456 test runs, 5,749 first-class runs overall and, surprisingly for a wicket keeper, he took two
first-class wickets bowling leg breaks.
There certainly isn’t any more bowling in the locker, a “very stiff shoulder” accounting for that, and back problems have put paid to keeping. But Blain is still amongst the runs.
He first came to England some years ago, playing for Gomersal in the Central Yorkshire League, and when his personal circumstances brought him back to the area he made contact once again with the now Bradford League outfit where he has involved himself in helping develop younger players in second-team cricket.
After scoring just over 1,250 runs in the past two seasons, Blain ended April as the league’s top-scorer and already has one century to his name.
“I am still generally fit but I am having a problem with my shoulder at the moment,” claimed Blain.
“To be honest I am virtually batting one-handed. Depending on fitness I will carry on for a bit longer.”