By Neil Goulding

SIMON Marshall admits that his county career with Lancashire was kick started by a three-season spell playing for Cheshire in the minor counties.

The 24 year-old leg-spinner was something of a fixture in the Lancashire Lightning one-day side that featured in last season’s C&G Trophy, Twenty20 Cup and NatWest Pro40 League.

And he is now aiming to do something similar in 2007 in the face of strong competition from Gary Keedy and Sri Lankan magician Muttiah Muralitharan.

“Oh yeah, my time with Cheshire certainly helped me get to where I am now. It was something of a stepping stone from league cricket to county cricket,” he explained.

“I really, really enjoyed my time there, because it is the nearest thing to preparing you for county cricket.”

Marshall, from Birkenhead, played with in the minor counties competition for three years, between 2001 and 2003, before making his Red Rose debut in 2005.

“The minor counties is something that is used for players who are outstanding league players, but have either got too good a job or are too old to chase the dream of a professional career,” he continues.

“I was quite lucky because I got into the Cheshire team with a chance in front of me. Luckily I was able to take it.”

“I do have the University degree behind me (from Cambridge), but I never really got to the stage where I was contemplating a vocation.”

Marshall played against the likes of former England bowler Martin McCague (Hertfordshire) and current Nottinghamshire bowler Charlie Shreck (Cornwall) in his time. He has since faced Shreck in the county game.

“I suppose he is a prime example of someone who has dominated at league level, dominated at minor counties level and then moved on to perform in county cricket,” he said.

Marshall, who has also played grade cricket for Adelaide and West Torrens in South Australia, admits that he is still behind Keedy and Muralitharan in the Old Trafford pecking order at present.

But he is still determined to use it as a positive, and make sure he learns from two quality performers.

“These two guys are top-class. I work with Gary all the time on various aspects of spin bowling. I only hope that working with Murali can have a similar effect.”