Matt Bryant is imbued with the wonder of youth, when the road ahead seems endless and opportunities abound.
So when the 18-year-old Old Boys off-spinner decided to sharpen his cricketing focus this year, he set as his ultimate goal playing for NSW.
After claiming 6-52 off 15 overs against South Tamworth at Riverside 2 on Saturday – his best figures in any grade – he must feel like he is a step closer to achieving that lofty ambition.
He said that over the past three seasons he was in and out of first grade, but was intent on keeping a spot he had occupied since the start of this season.
“I’ve been on and off and out of firsts. I just haven’t been performing as well as I’d like to,” he said. “But it’s good to come back this season and get a good start with off-spin.
“I’ve been working really hard in the nets with the boys on a Thursday afternoon, and I often go with Dad to one of the grounds and just have a bowl on the pitch and work on my off-spin.
“I would like to take my game to the next step. I’d just like to work on my offies and hopefully become the next off-spinner.”
For the club?
“And the state, hopefully,” he said.
Having taken up cricket at age 13, Bryant switched from bowling slow medium pace to off-spin about two years ago on the advice of Old Boys captain Ben Middlebrook.
“It’s been lovely, just to have a good team behind your back taking catches and fielding really well,” Bryant said. “It’s good to be with a good first-grade team.”
On day one of the two-dayer against South Tamworth, he said Middlebrook brought him on to “get some consistency about the team and get the balls in the [right] areas and look for some wickets”.
Bryant started taking chunks out of South Tamworth’s batting lineup when he removed No.4 Blake Fitzgerald for 38, leaving Souths 3-185 after Brock Morley (52) and Troy Osborne (21) posted a 52-run opening stand.
Morley and Jack Massey then combined for a 58-run second-wicket partnership, before Md Ikbal Hossain trapped Morley in front.
South Tamworth were 5-196 when Bryant removed Chris Massey for three and then his cousin, Jack, for 76, Souths’ top score.
Bryant then combined with Amit Kumar to slice through the tail as South Tamworth, who won the toss, finished on 240 in the 66st over. Kumar claimed 3-53 off 19.1 overs.
In reply, Old Boys were 3-48 at the close of play, with Tom O’Neill, Osborne and 60-year-old Souths legend Terry Psarakis each claiming a wicket. Psarakis is playing his first game in four years to plug a player-shortage hole.
Old Boys lost Adam Lole (two), Abel Carney (eight) and Middlebrook (a duck).