Essex bowler Quinn returning to Cheltenham after coming out the other side

PUBLISHED: 07:30 20 July 2018

Matt Quinn of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of Jake Libby (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Matt Quinn of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of Jake Libby (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

©TGS Photo +44 1376 553468

Matt Quinn, who has played for South Woodford in the past, discusses his long rehabilitation following a back injury

Matt Quinn of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of Chris Nash (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)Matt Quinn of Essex celebrates taking the wicket of Chris Nash (pic Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

When the Essex team bus turns into the College Ground at Cheltenham sometime this afternoon, it will bring back powerful memories for Matt Quinn. Some of them will be good, others rather painful.

New Zealander Quinn recorded his best bowling figures (7-76 and 11-163) in the Championship match against Gloucestershire at the picture-perfect ground two years ago this month.

But it was also the game in which the seamer first felt the twinges in his lower back that have blighted his career ever since.

As Essex return to the Cotswold town for a Vitality Blast fixture this evening – followed by a second T20 game of the weekend against Hampshire at Chelmsford on Saturday – the 25-year-old Quinn reflected on the highs and lows of that visit in 2016.

He says: “It feels a long, long time ago that I took those wickets at Cheltenham. There have been two Christmases in between and I’ve gone home twice. It was a very successful trip to Cheltenham in terms of the cricket, but it was probably the first time, halfway through the second innings, where my back started to get really sore.”

Quinn has played just three and a half Championship matches in those two years, one last month against Nottinghamshire in his latest comeback, eight Royal London Cup ties, all in 2017, and not a single T20 outing since the end of July 2016.

In the meantime he has had a season ticket for the hospital scanning department, been in and out of surgical gowns as screws have been inserted in his back and then taken out again, as well as enduring several bone grafts and long periods of rehabilitation.

He admits: “There was a time in the winter, after I broke down again and was told it had got a lot worse, when I was going into surgery thinking, ‘I guess this is my last-chance saloon. If this operation doesn’t work, then there’s nothing else you can really do’.

“So there was a bit of panic. Obviously you have your days when you’re thinking, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ and you can’t do anything, especially after an operation when the surgeon says you’ve got six months of doing nothing. You do think to yourself, ‘Am I wasting my life?’”

All the while Essex have stood by him, lengthening his contract despite long periods of inactivity. They were rewarded when Quinn received the all-clear six months ago, and he returned to first-team action with two early wickets against Nottinghamshire in a match haul of five for 75.

He has been turning out regularly for the 2nd XI, and topping up his T20 experience, including back-to-back games, both wins, against Gloucestershire at Bedminster at the start of the week. He is ready for the call-up when it comes.

Time, though, waits for no man, and Quinn admits: “I guess I’ve been out for so long that people have got ahead of me now.

“I’m almost bottom of the pile. I’ve got to earn my spot back again. I quite like that. I quite like the pressure of having to do well. I think it brings the best out of me.

“My first T20 game for Essex [he took personal-best figures of 4-35 against Surrey], that was a pressure game, not only being my debut, but proving that I wasn’t a waste of a signing.

“I’m at the point now where my contract’s up at the end of the year, and I need to prove to the club that I’ve been worth the wait in terms of getting back to being fit to play, and doing well.

“It’s been a frustrating time. Sam Cook has obviously done extremely well since he came on board. But my injury let him into the team really.

“So I know I’ve got to do really well to get my place back. Once I do get my chance I’ll make sure I give everything to prove I’m good enough still.”

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