New Middlesex signing savours challenge of competing with rival bowlers
- Credit: Gavin Ellis/TGS Photo
After helping to guide your team to their first trophy in over a decade, complacency could easily be a natural inclination.
That wasn’t the case for James Fuller – who, within weeks of winning the Royal London One-Day Cup with Gloucestershire in September, chose to return to Lord’s on a more permanent basis.
The 26-year-old ended his five-year stint in the West Country to sign for Middlesex, undaunted by the prospect of trying to force his way into one of the strongest seam departments in county cricket.
In fact, the challenge of attempting to dislodge the likes of Steven Finn, Tim Murtagh, Toby Roland-Jones and James Harris from Middlesex’s first team was a major attraction for the former New Zealand Under-19 international.
“Gus [Fraser] was on the phone fairly soon after the Royal London final, saying he liked what he’d seen, and the move was a pretty quick process,” said Fuller.
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“In a way I was gutted to leave Gloucestershire because I’d done fairly well, I’d built long-term friendships over the last five years and we’d just won a tournament, which had made us knit even closer together.
“But it was about trying to progress my career and go to a challenging county where perhaps I’m not going to be picked for the first team, so that means I’ve got to improve my game.
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“That was part of the appeal, along with Division One cricket – playing with guys who have been on the scene a lot longer than me, guys that I can really learn from.
“I’ve already seen first-hand that Steven Finn’s level of performance is pretty awesome – he’s an exceptional talent who bowls at the speed of light and swings it. That’s the sort of level I aspire to.
“It’s about trying to bring consistency to my game and the team. That’s an area where I’ve struggled in the past so hopefully being in this sort of environment, with these players around me, I can improve.”
Fuller, who was born in South Africa but grew up in New Zealand before moving to Gloucestershire in 2011, has built a reputation as a limited-overs specialist – especially after the six-run win over Surrey in September’s Royal London final.
That label makes him particularly welcome at Middlesex, who have only once qualified for the knockout stages of any one-day competition since their Twenty20 Cup success almost eight years ago.
“Obviously I want to make a big contribution in the one-day stuff, having come off the back of a win with Gloucestershire,” added Fuller. “I’ve got a few ideas to bring to the club and hopefully I can do that.
“We put a lot of emphasis on white-ball cricket [at Gloucestershire], working really hard to develop skills that would help us win, and [coach] John Bracewell really emphasised the fielding as well.
“Last year everything clicked – we didn’t get as many injuries as we’d had in previous years and a lot of the team were between 23 and 25 years old, so physically we were strong.
“I guess Middlesex, being a Division One side, have tended to prioritise red-ball cricket, and that’s something the players are going to have to manage.
“The challenge is to compete in the County Championship and also have the energy in reserve to go after the white-ball game – and I think we’ve got the guys to do it.”
This year, the Royal London Cup group matches will be played in two blocks – in early June and late July – instead of cramming eight fixtures into a single three-week period, as was the case last season.
That schedule placed a strain on Middlesex’s squad as they fell short of qualifying for the quarter-finals and Fuller added: “All teams struggled with that last year. You could end up playing four-day cricket, one-day cricket and Twenty20 in the same week.
“Teams with bigger squads have the ability to potentially rotate and that’s key, but I think the re-jigged format will help us – and others – this year.”