Cricket: Beard glad to be back in Essex line-up
PUBLISHED: 07:51 07 May 2019 | UPDATED: 07:51 07 May 2019
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Three years ago this week, an 18-year-old Aaron Beard introduced himself to the Essex cricket public by taking wickets with his fourth and ninth deliveries in the tourist match against Sri Lanka.
Beard ended with never-bettered figures of 4-62 and, now aged 21, the fast bowler from Chelmsford is hoping to make his mark amid the dying embers of the Eagles' depressing 2019 Royal London Cup campaign.
Beard was called up for his List A debut on Sunday in the defeat against Kent, and should keep his place in the XI to face Gloucestershire at The Cloudfm County Ground today (1pm start).
“It's very nice to be back in the first-team fold,” he said. “Hopefully it will continue for the rest of the year, especially in the red-ball stuff, which is my forte.
“But it is so challenging with the amount of talent we've got in red-ball cricket, especially with Peter Siddle being here. I would imagine that he will be in the [Australian] Ashes squad, so that might be a little opportunity coming up.”
It is all about opportunities for Beard, then grabbing them with both hands. “I'm bowling probably 10 times better than I was when I played against Sri Lanka,” he added. “That is frustrating in a way, but good in another way: it means that when I do get my opportunity I will be a lot more confident.
“Every game you play for the first team you have to make it hard for yourself to be dropped. It is stamping your name on any opportunity, which I am trying to do this week in the one-day stuff. It's exciting, but I want to keep pursuing my cricket and make it as difficult as I can to be left out.”
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Beard has made just nine first-class appearances since that memorable debut against the Sri Lankans, five of them in the Specsavers County Championship, the last nearly two years ago, with only one red-ball outing this season when he took three for 24 against Cambridge MCCU in March – conspicuously before Siddle's arrival.
The experienced Australian is Beard's main competition for the role of swing bowler in the Essex attack. However, along with Jamie Porter, Siddle has been an invaluable source of advice and encouragement.
“I had a really good chat with 'Sids' before the game on Sunday to ease my nerves. Whenever he's around he's always open to conversation, which is very nice of him, and I've learnt a lot.”
Beard is used to hearing the Australian accent: he spent the winter Down Under, playing grade cricket for Manly in the Sydney suburbs.
“It was an amazing experience,” he said. “Lifestyle-wise, I was out there with my girlfriend [Millie] and we lived our lives as we'd like to in the future. But the cricket was very challenging.
“I didn't get the opportunities that I really wanted, but I've come back and I'd say I'm a lot better bowler than I was. I'm also a lot fitter and stronger. I certainly hope to go back.”
While still seeking his first 50-over wicket after nine fruitless overs at Beckenham, Beard did make an impression with the bat, coming in at No10 and scoring 22 not out from 17 balls.
He has several second-team hundreds to his name, and has been opening this season, adding: “If I can get some runs down the order for the firs team, I see that as a strong point. Then when the captain and the manager go into team meetings it makes me another batting option rather than just a tail-ender who bowls. It helps keep my name in the hat.”
Essex go into today's game against Gloucestershire having won just two of their seven one-day matches and fighting to avoid the wooden spoon in the southern group. Beard said: “It would be nice to get a win in the final game and have a positive mindset going into the four-day match against Notts next week.”