There’s not many things that would pull Jake Ball away from playing for Nottinghamshire on his home ground of Welbeck, but an England Test call is one of them.
When the green and golds make their second first-team appearance at the John Fretwell Complex on July 24 for a Royal London Cup 50-over match against neighbours Derbyshire, the pride of Warsop would love nothing better than to be racing in to bowl.
It would normally be a given on a ground where the 25-year-old grew up playing much of his cricket. These days he is more or less guaranteed the new ball in County Championship cricket and is often first change in one-day action.
Yet it is that very form, leading to his rise in standing among the seamers at Trent Bridge, which threatens his absence for what, in his eyes, is undeniably one of the most eagerly-awaited matches of the season.
You see, Ball’s prowess in the first half of the 2016 season, following an eye-catching December tour of Dubai with the England Lions, has thrust the nephew of another Welbeck player-cum-international cricketer, Bruce French, onto the cusp of an England Test debut.
A clatter of County Championship wickets in April and early May brought him selection to the senior national squad for the first Test against Sri Lanka at Headingley, where he missed out to the more experienced Steven Finn as back up seamer to Jimmy Anderson and county team-mate Stuart Broad.
That situation remained unchanged for the second and third Tests as England wrapped up a 2-0 series win and means he is expecting to be an unlucky 12th man once more when the Pakistan Test series starts in mid-July.
But in sport, you just never know. By the time England rock up at Old Trafford for the second Test starting on July 22, Ball could well be pounding up to the wicket to bowl at Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, Misbah-ul-Haq et al, which would, of course mean missing his north Notts homecoming.
It is, of course, a price he is willing to pay in pursuit of the international recognition he has dreamed of since first donning a Welbeck sweater to follow in the footsteps of older brother Jonathan.
“It has been great to be in the England squad and talk to bowlers like Jimmy and Stuart in that environment, and even play a round or two of gold with them,” said Ball, who had 31 Division One Championship wickets at 23.93 ahead of the County Championship Division One match against Lancashire.
“It has been frustrating not to make my England debut, particularly in the third Test when we had already won the series. But the long term carrot is there to take over from the older bowlers when they retire.
“Will I get to make my debut this summer? It’s looking like I might only get in because of injury with the way the other lads have bowled in the series, but, like for Notts, it’s about taking your chance when it does come.
“If I was in the England team and missed Welbeck, then it wouldn’t be a bad excuse, would it? We’ll just have to see where I am, but if I’m not facing Pakistan you usually get told a day or two before and if you can play in a game for your county, you are often made available.
“It could be that way this time, so I could be going from England duty straight onto the pitch at Welbeck for Notts.”
Ball’s coming of age, from fringe player to first team regular at county level and England contender, certainly caught some of the less well-informed followers of the game by surprise, but the Mansfield-born player has taken the journey in his stride.
It is his ability to move the ball both ways at a lively pace that has really caught the eye, together with a cool head that has allowed him to ‘work out’ opposition batsmen.
He added: “There was quite a bit of media speculation leading up to the England squad call-up, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise in the end, but it was nice when it was confirmed.
“I haven’t done anything too differently this season. I’ve just used the confidence I gained with a good Lions tour and have put into practice what I learned last season about how to bowl in certain situations and against certain batters.
“It was just about getting a run in red ball cricket and then making sure I took the chance when it came along. Once you’re in you have to make sure you’re not complacent and keep doing the things that got you there in the first place – and that’s all I have tried to do.”
Naturally, Ball is delighted that Notts are back at Welbeck after cruising to a nine-wicket victory over Warwickshire in front of a healthy crowd at Sookholme Lane in 2015.
He believes the numbers could be even bigger for this year’s fixture given the close proximity of the opposition, and expects no quarter given by Derbyshire, who currently top the Royal London Cup North Group.
Ball said: “Every team this summer has put a lot of effort into white ball cricket and every team has found a way to be competitive. One good knock from a batsman or one good catch in the field can make all the difference.
“This will be a very local game for a lot of people, so I would expect a good crowd and quite a few Derbyshire fans to come along.
“We got the win and put on a really good event last year against Warwickshire, so hopefully we can do both again this time.”
There are still a few hospitality places available for the Welbeck game at £40 per person, which includes admission, parking at £5 per car, a three-course Sunday lunch, a VIP seating area and a dedicated bar area.
Tickets for the match are available from.nottsccc.co.uk and are priced at £10 for adults, £5 for juniors and £7 for senior citizens (over 65) and under-21s.
Ground admission in inclusive of access to the ground and seating in any stand apart from the members’ pavilion.