Rob Newton admits it was now or never at Northamptonshire last season – and having notched his maiden first class century, he is aiming to make 2011 equally successful.
The 21-year-old Swardeston batsman had been at the Northants Academy since 2005 and, despite regular second team appearances, he had to wait until the end of 2009 to make his one-day debut. But it was last year that Newton, whose family lives in Cromer, really made his mark as he broke into the Championship side and fired a typically rapid 102 in the final game of the season, against Leicestershire.
“It was great,” he said. “I’d scored five second team hundreds and really felt like I’d earned my way into the first team and I felt I did well in the six Championship games I played in, as well as the one dayers. Then to score a hundred in the last game really finished off my season nicely. It’s great to get that first one out of the way so now I can just concentrate on scoring more.
“I was one of those guys who played second team cricket from the age of 16 to 19 and I would get 30 every week and then get out. It’s just a maturity thing I think and it really came together for me last year. It was probably the last season I had to really impress and fortunately I was able to do it.
“I think when you get to the age of 20 as a young player you’re right on the edge in terms of your future, but maybe that was the motivation I needed and I really kicked on and enjoyed last year and I’m hoping to do the same again this season.”
Newton spent the winter in Australia at the Paul Terry Academy in Perth and played club cricket for Melville, before returning to join Northants’ pre-season tour to South Africa.
He said: “I had a bit of a back problem before Christmas and didn’t play much, but I did okay after Christmas and got three 70s. It’s my third winter away – working with different coaches is a good experience and it’s useful to get a fresh look at your game. Also you get to see another part of the world which is always nice.”
Although he has featured in much of Northants’ pre-season action and was in the side that drew with Loughborough UCCE earlier this week, Newton was not included in the squad of 12 which travelled to The Oval to face Surrey today.
“I’ve missed out on the first Championship game which is a bit unfortunate, but I know I’m very close and knocking on the door, so it’s just a case of getting some runs and getting an opportunity and then making the most of it,” he said.
“The first aim is to break into the side and then stay there. There’s only one way to do it and that’s to score hundreds for the second team. The second team matches start next week so I’ll just be trying to put as much pressure on the guys in the first team as possible and when I get my chance to really grab it.”
Newton came through the Northants Academy with fellow Norfolk product Bud Bailey, and while Bailey made his Championship debut two years before Newton, he was released by the county at the end of 2009.
“The biggest disappointment was that he had so much going for him,” said Newton.
“I think a lot of people thought that if he’d stuck at it he could have played for England. But it was his decision, he wasn’t really enjoying himself and I totally respect him for saying ‘I’m going to get out of this and do something I enjoy’. I still speak to him and he seems fine which is the most important thing.”
Newton has maintained his links with Swardeston and just 10 days after his century against Leicestershire, his club colleagues also shone on a county stage as they won the Cockspur Club Twenty20 at Hampshire’s Rose Bowl in front of the Sky Sports cameras. “I saw the semi-final, but had to miss the final,” said Newton. “I spoke to the lads after and they were obviously in high spirits. I only managed to play one game for them last year but it’s always nice to go back.”