SAM Uphill has served his apprenticeship in Armidale cricket and now he is making a place in the first XI his own.
Having been elevated to the top side in the past year, the 20-year-old right-arm medium seamer has been something of a revelation with the ball in Armidale’s Country Shield campaign.
Now he will play in the semi-final against Nowra at Cowra on Saturday.
“I can’t wait,” Uphill said.
“It should be good fun.
“It’s been pretty hard to crack the Armidale first XI the last few years so it’s good to get a go this year.
“A few young fellas have played, which is good.”
Uphill was one of a number of young locals who have cut their teeth in senior rep cricket via the Dumaresq Colts in the Connolly Cup.
In fact that side has won the title twice in recent years.
“I played in the Colts side for three years that won it,” he said.
“It’s really good and there are some even younger guys than me.”
One of those is young batsman and a former Easts teammate of Uphill’s, Will Frost.
“He’s a very good bat,” Uphill said.
Uphill joins his Easts skipper Dean Moore in the squad for Cowra.
The rest of the team are from Hillgrove, City, TAS and Ex-Services and that mix of players has allowed the likes of Uphill to learn from senior players at other clubs.
One of those is former Armidale skipper Adam O’Sullivan and current captain Andrew Brownlie.
O’Sullivan’s influence over the side can’t be underestimated.
“He’s still scoring runs too,” Uphill said.
“He’s really good with us young bowlers.
“He’s always talking to us.”
And Brownlie’s leadership has been instrumental in Armidale’s success.
His enthusiasm this summer has been one of the sparks that has ignited the Country Shield campaign and its unbeaten run in the War Veterans Cup as well.
“He’s brought a whole new attitude to the side,” Uphill said.
“It’s good to play under him.”
But Uphill has contributed as much as anyone this season with his accurate, stump to stump bowling.
Among the highlights, he took five wickets against Gunnedah earlier in the summer and almost repeated that effort in Armidale’s last game at Narrabri.
“I got four wickets last week and five a few weeks before that,” Uphill said.
“It’s good to get a few wickets and feel like you’re part of the side.
“I just try to hit the spot and let the ball do the work.”
So far the ball has done exactly what was needed.
Armidale has bowled sides out in every game it has played.
But it has also had the advantage of defending good totals in most games.
“It comes off our batting,” Uphill said.
“It’s set up well because we’ve hardly had to bat second.
“When you bat first you have runs on the board and it makes it easier to bowl.”
Bowling in Cowra might not be too easy though.
On what could be a batting-friendly track, it will take all the skills and effort of the Armidale attack to take 10 wickets in the semi-final, and hopefully in the final on Sunday.
“I’ve never played at Cowra but I’ve heard the pitches there are flat,” Uphill said.
“It’s going to be tough.”