Hampshire attack told to ‘hunt as a pack’

David Balcombe. Hampshire pre-season. Picture: Neil Marshall (April 2013)

David Balcombe. Hampshire pre-season. Picture: Neil Marshall (April 2013)

Chris Stone

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David Balcombe has shrugged off his senior status and insisted: We must hunt as a pack.

The 28-year-old seam bowler is one of the most experienced members of the Hampshire attack.

Alongside James Tomlinson, he is charged with setting the example for the club’s young pacemen to follow this term.

But while Balcombe acknowledges his senior standing, he reckons the bowling unit have to work as a team to help the county achieve their target of promotion to County Championship division one.

Establishing himself as a regular in the first team has been no easy task for the London-born talent.

After finding his route into the side blocked, Balcombe enjoyed a fruitful spell on loan at Kent in 2011.

But he was handed an opportunity last summer – after former England internationals Dominic Cork and Simon Jones had left the club.

And he took it with both hands, topping Hampshire’s wicket-taking charts with 59 County Championship scalps.

It was a fine return for Balcombe – and rich reward for his patience since making his first-class debut for the county under Shane Warne back in 2007.

Now – with another ex-England seam bowler, Kabir Ali, moving on in the close season – he is set to spearhead Hampshire’s division two promotion bid alongside left-armer Tomlinson.

But although Balcombe admits the dressing room is jam-packed with promising yet inexperienced young talents, he is not anticipating any extra pressure.

Instead, Balcombe reckons the secret to Hampshire sealing a spot in the top flight will be the ability to spread the load across the whole of the exciting bowling unit.

And he has backed the likes of Chris Wood and David Griffiths to stand up and be counted when it comes to mounting a challenge for first-class honours.

‘Eighteen months ago we had quite a different look to the squad,’ said Balcombe, who has taken 169 first-class wickets in his career to date.

‘We had Corky, Kabby and Simon Jones – a lot of senior guys – and getting into that side was tough.

‘For me, I learned a lot going to Kent.

‘And then last year I was thrust into having more responsibility in the bowling attack and I really enjoyed it.

‘Now, I suppose myself and Tommo are the older ones in that bowling attack.

‘But I think all the guys, in what is a young squad, complement each other in different ways.

‘We are all very different bowlers, from Griff, to Woody, Tommo and myself.

‘We are just very different, so whatever attack is picked we all just complement each other.

‘And for us to move forward as a Championship side and challenge for promotion we will need to gel as a group and hunt as a pack.

‘Any way we can get 20 wickets, whether it is myself, Woody or whoever, and try to find a way to bowl as a unit more, that will be the key.’

Balcombe was wicketless in the County Championship opener with Leicestershire at the Ageas Bowl last week.

Tomlinson took five wickets in the draw, though – including four for 23 in the Foxes’ first innings – as Giles White’s men hit top spot in the table after the first round of matches.

Both players may be rested when Hampshire welcome Loughborough MCCU to the south coast for a three-day friendly, which starts tomorrow.

The students arrive at the Ageas Bowl for the annual friendly, with first-team manager White aiming to strike a balance between avoiding injuries and getting valuable time in the middle.

Michael Bates is in the frame for a run out – after losing the gloves for the first Championship game to new signing Adam Wheater.

Griffiths may also be given his first start of the season, while White has options in his batting ranks, with Sean Terry among those pushing for a game.

The match is set to start at 11am.

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