Ben Slater: Ready to Leicestershire the best thing that ever happened at the opening of Notts
The 29-year-old was walking the water at Trent Bridge heading into the 2020 season before a last-minute loan deal saved his season and revitalized his career.
When Ben Slater last spoke The cricketer in August 2020, his future was uncertain.
Following a successful loan in 2018, he left Derbyshire to Nottinghamshire, swapping the comforts of home to be a little fish in a big pond.
Unfortunately, as he himself admits, his first full season at Trent Bridge did not go as planned. He scored just 471 points in 13 County Championship games, passing 50 just once, and his first-class average fell to 20.47 – his lowest since his first season in 2013.
Heading into the 2020 campaign, his poor form showed no signs of slowing down and after registering three single-digit hits in Nottinghamshire’s pre-season matches he was replaced by new signing Haseeb Hameed in the eleven starting and left out of the squad for their Bob opening of the Willis Trophy against Derbyshire.
Making the decision to go in search of first-team opportunities, Slater found himself on loan for the second time in his career – not as an exciting talent with nothing to lose, but as an outside player. of form with a point to prove. And he thinks he is taking the plunge and moving on Leicestershire days before the start of the season was the best decision he had ever made.
Ben Slater plays for Nottinghamshire in the County Championship (L) and One-Day Cup (R) in 2019
“2019 didn’t quite go as planned in the red ball after my debut when I came on loan the previous year from Derbyshire,” he honestly admits. “I did well in the 50-point white ball competition in 2019, but you want to do well in the first class game, and it didn’t go as planned.
“I was disappointed not to be part of this first team. I thought I had played well in the preseason, I didn’t score a lot but how I had managed and how I was in the middle of training, I thought I had played well enough to deserve a place in the team. It’s professional sport, you have to face the rough with the soft.
“I was lucky to be able to make a loan, I knew a few guys [at Leicestershire] of my time in Derbyshire – Tommy Taylor, Will Davis and Cal Parkinson – and as soon as that was confirmed on both sides I really pulled their hand off. Better to play first class cricket than just train and play for my team on the weekends.
“And, looking back, it’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me, to go to Leicestershire and score the points I made in the first two games I was there and force myself to return to Nottinghamshire. “
Slater made an immediate impact in Leicestershire, scoring a daddy hundred in the opening innings of his debut – a career high score of 172 – and contributing with 25 of 23 deliveries in the second as his new team chased 150 in 16 assists to win the game.
“To score a hundred in that first game, it was special,” he recalls. “It was almost just to say, that’s what I can do, and the win that followed in that game, beating Lancashire like we did, was probably one of the best wins of my time. career, so it was a special week. “
His next appearance didn’t quite go as planned – two ducks against Derbyshire – but Nottinghamshire liked what they saw from their opener. He was called back to his home county for their clash against Lancashire and pushed straight into the starting XI where, to the horror of Lancashire bowlers, he marked another century.
He followed with a gritty 86 against Leicestershire before ending 2020 with a six-ball duck at Durham. But it didn’t matter. With half a century, two centuries, and 425 red ball races – the competition’s fourth largest – to his name, he won the Nottinghamshire Red Ball Player of the Season award and perhaps became the first player of this millennium to hit a first-class century for two different counties against the same opponent in one season – a niche statistic, but one that he will take.
“It’s really a little ridiculous,” he laughs. “How many people would play for two teams in the space of two weeks against the same team and score two hundred? It’s kind of crazy, isn’t it?
“I think it was two hundred, a fifty, three ducks and a twenty-something, which showed that when I get in my place, I get big. Two hundred, a fifty and three ducks in seven innings, that’s about as ridiculous as the year really was! “
“But I was delighted to score the points I made after being ruled out in Game 1 and to win the Red Ball Player of the Year was an honor. I am happy with how it all turned out. . If you had told me that when I was locked out in March and April playing Football Manager, I would have ripped your hands off. “
And, despite his struggles over the past two years, he doesn’t regret his decision to move to Trent Bridge: “I don’t regret it. There is one aspect of my game that has improved and probably as a person also – if I I had not taken this step and lived this experience.
“Obviously there was a point where I was left out where you think if I was there I would play but I don’t think I would ever have regretted it. I think the greatest regret at the end of my career would be if I hadn’t taken that step and tried to push myself into a club like Nottinghamshire. “
As the new season approaches, Slater’s morale is high: he has signed a new contract, securing his future at Nottinghamshire until the end of 2023, has recovered from minor wrist surgery to the fall and marked a century of preseason against Oxford UCCE.
“I feel good, I feel good,” he says. “I have a hundred [in pre-season] and starting the season with a hundred only puts you well. I spent time in the middle – for that hundred, I faced about 140 balls, which probably equates to about a week in the net! The time spent against the opposition, the confidence you get from it – it’s good to enjoy the season.
“My game is feeling great after a winter of hard work and I’m just good to go.”
Nottinghamshire start their home season against Durham on Thursday and, although Slater is keen to consolidate his position in the Red Ball camp, he is also looking to become a three-format player and enter the T20 side – not an easy task given Notts Outlaws won two T20 explosion titles since 2017.
“[I want] to start the season the best I can, establish myself at the top of the four-day competition and score some points, “he said.” Obviously you want to start well, grab some wins early in the season and that will hopefully snowball.
“Personally in the 50s competition I want to continue as I have in my career and get into the T20 team if I can. Their track record for making it to the finals day is probably the one of the best of all 18 counties so it will be tough but it’s one of my ambitions and i will work hard to try to get there.
“Those are the goals I set for myself. I want to score as many points as possible. If you gave me a hundred in each round, I would take it. You strive for perfection and you don’t go. . out there and try to settle for less than 100. That’s the mindset I take in every game. “
He also has confidence in his team’s red ball ambitions. In recent years, their dominance of the white ball has not translated into the County Championship – Nottinghamshire failed to win a match in the Bob Willis Trophy – but, after a promising winter, Slater believes their colleagues in group 1 should write them off at their peril.
🤤 Is anyone @BennySlatsdebut for the Running Foxes yet? Because we are not!
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– Leicestershire County Cricket Club 🏏 (@leicsccc) Aug 6, 2020
“If you look at how we did in 2020, we can take positive results from what we have done,” he says. “I think we’ve scored the most bonus batting points in the entire country and previously we’ve had a lot of criticism for our red ball stick so we can get some positives from that.
“We’re a fairly new team and with all the new players we’ve brought in, it takes time to gel and get to know each other’s games. With white ball cricket you can put a team together and c It’s easy to go out there and perform at a high level, but with red ball cricket it’s a tough game to do and it takes time to gel and start winning steadily. Watch Somerset and the ‘Essex, they have a team, they know how they play and that’s why they’ve been at the top for a few years.
“I think we’re now in the position where we’ll come back to winning in this format. I think we all understand each other a lot better, and I think we might surprise a few. [teams] this year.”
And speaking of surprises, after leading them to the Championship in the first lockdown, Slater secured a promotion to the Premier League with Chesterfield on Football Manager over the Christmas period: “My greatest sporting achievement” – so far .
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