Enjoyment for Rob as Test stars fall short

Anyone turning up for a Saturday afternoon game of cricket only to find himself facing two fast bowlers with 387 Test victims between them can adopt one of two approaches.

He can panic. Or he can decide to enjoy the experience and test his own ability against a couple of acknowledged top-liners.

Fortunately, Northamptonshire academy batsman Rob Newton settled on the latter course of action against Brixworth – featuring Devon Malcolm and Jason Gillespie – at the weekend.

He was rewarded with 94 including three sixes and 13 fours, a knock that helped David Ripley's side to a nerve-wracking victory by one wicket.

"It was certainly a shock when I heard the rumours on Thursday night that Gillespie would be playing," admits the 19-year-old in his fifth season with the academy.

"You pitch up for a league game and expect to see a couple of decent bowlers with the new ball...but maybe not with 400-odd Test wickets to their credit!

"I think the most important thing when you're facing guys with a big reputation is to remember that it doesn't matter who's actually bowled the ball. It's still down to treating it on its merits.

"I just tried to be positive. My natural game is pretty aggressive so I wanted to go out and bat like I have been in the league this season, and it worked out for me."

"It would have been nice to get another hundred (to add to his tons against Desborough and Northampton Saints in recent weeks) although I've never been a great one for stats.

"I was more annoyed at getting out when we were still 50 or 60 runs short."

Born in Somerset but a Norfolk representative in his early age-group cricket, Newton plundered runs pretty much at will as a student at Framlingham College – the Suffolk school that also gave Northamptonshire sport England fast bowler David Larter and Calcutta Cup hero Andy Hancock.

He smashed an unbeaten 207 for Framlingham against MCC in 2007 before going easy on them last year, settling for a mere 165 not out.

Making his debut for the County's second team three summers ago, his career suffered a serious setback at the start of last season when your correspondent singled him out as 'one to watch' in Wisden Cricketer magazine.

Survive that and you can survive anything.

His target now is to find the level of consistency in the 'stiffs' necessary to convince club officials that he merits a place on the professional staff.

"Particularly in the one-day format I've been finding my feet pretty well in the seconds," he adds.

"Last Tuesday (when his knock of 66 helped pave the way for a

comfortable win over Minor Counties in the Trophy competition) was the culmination of quite a lot of hard work, especially when it comes to playing against spin in the middle of a 50-over innings.

"I've had a few fifties this season – now I want to get a big one.

"As a Second XI cricketer you need to score as many runs or take as many wickets as you can and get yourself noticed."

Newton's cricketing and academic futures are closely interwoven at the moment.

He's received an offer to study economics at Leeds University but wants to see what develops at the County Ground – and consider whether or not another winter abroad (he played in Sydney during the last close-season) is the best way to go.

And if he needs references for another overseas excursion, I'm certain 'Dev' and 'Dizzy' would be only too happy to oblige.