By Neil Goulding
CHESHIRE all-rounder Simon Renshaw believes the current county
team have the makings of something special.
Renshaw returned to the county fold for Cheshire's Minor Counties Championship clash with Herefordshire at Chester Boughton Hall.
And his return couldn't have come at a better time for his county, who have lost Dave Pennett, there other former first-class cricketer, for the important clash because of work commitments.
Last season Renshaw, who was a strike bowler for Hampshire in his hey day, shone with the bat as well as with the ball.
The gifted strokesman crashed 340 runs last term in only seven innings, which left him with an impressive average of 56.66.
One of those innings was a magnificent century and a half-century to help Cheshire fight their way out of sticky situations, and the gutsy all-rounder also weighed in with 17 wickets for his county's cause.
And so far this season Renshaw has played a number of key roles for his team as they have battled to stay in contention for honours in the Western Division.
A superb cameo against Dorset in the opening match of the season, which included three huge sixes, led to Cheshire's first win and then a spirited unbeaten 69 against Berkshire at Alderley Edge made sure his side ground a well-deserved draw against their fellow title-challengers.
But Renshaw is quite happy to play second fiddle in the side and see some of the team's younger players blossom.
"I'll try and help any of the younger players if they ask me for advice," said Renshaw. "It has helped that I have played first-class cricketer, I improved my game and learnt a lot, but it's important we give the younger players a chance because they are the future for the county.
"We've lost a couple of senior players in the side and that showed last year because it was a transitional season for us, but it's nice to have a mixture. You've got to have the right blend of players and the young lads that have come have done well."
Indeed, Renshaw has been impressed with the way promising youngsters Nafees Din and Danny Leech have proved themselves at Minor Counties level.
"Those two players obviously stand out because they have done well," said Renshaw. "They have both come in and got runs, so they deserve their chance. We have got a young side this year, so it is going to be hard to win the league, but we are doing much better than we did last year and it's important that we are still unbeaten in the league. We could have gone further in the cup [M.C.C.A.] this season, but one player won Hertfordshire the game. That's just the way it goes sometimes, but the signs are promising for us just at the minute."
Renshaw had a season for Cheshire before earning a trial at Hampshire, who he eventually went on to prosper with for five seasons. And once he ended his first-class career, Cheshire was the obvious choice for a county to return to.
Renshaw starred for Cheshire at various Youth levels and really excelled in the Under-19s, which also led to a call-up for the British Universities, where he admits his career blossomed.
"I improved as a cricketer around that age and into my early 20s," admitted Renshaw, whose full-time profession is a sales manager in Leicestershire, where he now lives with his family. "It was a good test for me and that was when I really developed my game.
"I had a very good season for Cheshire in my first year, but I was delighted when I got my county contract, because it gave me the opportunity to play at a higher standard. I had some great times with Hampshire, it was a great experience for me and I have taken away some fond memories, but I'm also loving playing for Cheshire.
"I've played for the county at youth level and went to school with Neil Cross [also in the Cheshire set-up]. I've played against Andy Hall [Cheshire's captain] as well, so I knew some of the players. It ws always my intention to play for Cheshire again."
Renshaw now plys his trade for Kibworth, but has played his cricket for Oxton, in was then the Manchester Association, as well as having successful spells in the Bradford League and with Leeds University when he had trails with Yorkshire.
But Minor Counties cricket is still a level of cricket which he holds dear to his heart, although he admits that availability is sometimes a problem.
"It is a big commitment to play for Cheshire, but I usually have to miss one game because of work," added Renshaw. "I'd love to play every game, I enjoy playing for Cheshire, but you have to balance playing and working. It's a big year for the county this year. Andy Hall is in his second season has captain, we have recruited Dave Pennett, who is a good player and great for team morale, as well as seeing some of the younger players stake their claim, so hopefully we can keep our form going."