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Salisbury stunned by Hampshire heroics

PUBLISHED: 14:45 09 June 2017

Matt Salisbury in bowling action for Essex against Australia in a tourist match in 2015 (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Matt Salisbury in bowling action for Essex against Australia in a tourist match in 2015 (pic: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo)

Gavin Ellis/TGSPHOTO c/o 27 Plaiters Way, Braintree, Essex, CM7 3LR

Former Essex staffer in shock return to county scene

Former Essex seamer Matt Salisbury has made a whirlwind return to first-class cricket with Hampshire – and it is all down to an unexpected last-minute call to make up the numbers by the county he left two summers ago.

The Shenfield club member was twiddling his thumbs when he was drafted into Essex’s second XI team to play Hampshire a month ago because of an injury, but showed no signs of rustiness as he proceeded to land a five-wicket haul.

The performance on the Nursery Ground at the Ageas Bowl tempted Essex’s opponents to take him on trial, and Salisbury took 16 wickets in four second-team games in the second half of May.

The fairytale didn’t end there as Hampshire liked what they saw and Salisbury was elevated to the main pitch at Southampton for the Specsavers County Championship match against Warwickshire last week where he marked his debut with two wickets in this first three balls, including that of former England Test batsman Ian Bell.

This week 24-year-old Salisbury was still struggling to get his head around the sudden upturn in his fortunes after helping Hampshire leapfrog Essex to the top of Division One.

He said: “Three weeks ago I played in a second XI game for Essex against Hampshire and did quite well. I was a late call-up, someone got injured and they asked me if I’d like to play. I said, ‘Why not?’ and drove down and went straight on to the field to have a bowl and it worked out well.

“Hampshire obviously liked the look of me and asked me to play a couple of second-team games. I had two weeks of playing in the second team, taking a couple of wickets and then ended up in the first team – it has been a quick turnaround.

“I was told I was playing against Warwickshire on the morning of the first day. I was surprised. I didn’t expect to play, I thought I was coming down to train and maybe do some 12th man duties. It was a nice surprise.

“I couldn’t have dreamt that start any better. Two wickets in three balls! It relaxed me into the game after I had been itching to get involved.”

Salisbury had been a free agent since being released by Essex at the end of the 2015 season after playing 13 first-class, six List A and eight T20 matches during a two-year professional contract with the club he first joined aged 15.

But he had been keeping his arm in by spending the winter training at Chelmsford, adding: “I trained with Essex, even though I wasn’t part of the squad, to keep myself fit and involved. Because I had been training with them in pre-season they were kind enough to let me come in.

“I thought my first-class career might have been over when I left Essex. A lot of time I’ve been unsure what I was going to do. I’m still kind of in that place where I’m not sure if I want to pursue it or where I’m going to pursue it.

“I didn’t have many plans, I was just playing minor counties cricket for Suffolk and that was all I was doing at the start of the season. It has gone from playing a few games at the weekend, and not having much on during the week, to suddenly in the last few weeks having a lot of cricket. I’m certainly happier now.”

Salisbury is unsure what the future holds, but is hoping for a full-time contract down on the south coast.

“I have enjoyed my few weeks at Hampshire and would like to stick around,” he said. “At the moment it is too early to know what will happen, but I’m here until the end of the season, and we’ll see what happens.”

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