Essex v Hampshire - Royal London Cup - At the Cloudfm County Ground, Chelmsford (Sunday 11am)- Preview
Frinton-on-Sea, Bedford, Billericay and Radlett might sound like the route of an OAPs’ magical mystery tour, yet for Matt Quinn they have been the proving grounds on his comeback trail.
Quinn’s Essex career has suffered a pregnant pause since injury curtailed his first season in England at the end of July after 47 wickets across all formats had been crammed into two-and-a-half months.
But after four matches at various off-the-beaten-track venues for the 2nd XI, taking 10 wickets at 12.90 each, everything points towards a return to first-team action at Chelmsford on Sunday in the opening Royal London Cup fixture against Hampshire.
Yet even as recently as five weeks ago, and Essex’s pre-season trip to Dubai, Quinn was still struggling with a long-term back injury and unable to put a date on a return.
“When I was in Dubai I thought it would be at least another couple of months,” says the 24-year-old New Zealander. “I didn’t think it was going to happen this quick because it was so sore.
“I don’t know what’s happened but something has just clicked and it feels fine. It will definitely be monitored in the foreseeable future and to make sure I don’t overdo it. But as it stands now everything is shipshape and I’m feeling pretty good.”
Quinn was in a purple patch when the injury first manifest itself nine months ago. He took six wickets in a devastating 10-over spell of swing and pace in the Specsavers Championship against Gloucestershire on the way to career-best figures of seven for 76 and 11 for 163 in the match.
“I had quite a sore upper lift glute in that game at Cheltenham,” he says. “From there it would get very stiff. I had a few painkillers and a little massage and it would ease off. But it took longer and longer each time to ease off.
“The last game I tried was Sussex at Colchester [in early August] and the stiffness just wouldn’t go away. That’s when I thought maybe it was a muscular thing and I had a scan and they found a stress problem.”
It was the start if a long period of re-diagnosis and rehabilitation. “It was tough because I had four or five months where I couldn’t do anything,” he says. “Then I had three months’ lay-over from my initial scan to see the fracture and three months to see if there was any bone recovery.
“I really couldn’t do much then because my back had to be perfectly upright. It’s nice to have come through to the other side and be able to play. Even second-team cricket has been a boost.”
Quinn notes with gratitude the restructuring of the county programme for this season with the different formats played in blocks: the opening blast of three Championship games now giving way to an eight-game stretch of 50-over group games with the T20 fixtures in July and August.
He says: “Last year was just ridiculous; the turn-over and travel was just too much for me. We’d play a four-dayer and then a T20 next day.
“In New Zealand I played every game, but in between games we’d always have at least one day of nothing, so a whole day away, sitting on the couch, going for a walk, maybe playing golf. But here you don’t have that luxury and if you do get a day off you’re probably in some kind of rehab, and then you’re away next day. The intensity really makes a massive difference.”
With overs until his belt in the 2nd XI, Quinn is almost back to match fitness. He admits: “My pace is still down. I haven’t yet found that extra 3-4mph, just to get my snap back.
“But the main thing is the ball is still swinging, and that’s something that gets me a few wickets. As long as the ball’s swinging I’m always going to be in the game regardless of whether I’m bowling a little bit slower.”