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Hampshire Feature - Jack Campbell - The Journey to County cricket

Ageas Bowl - Hampshire CCC Ground
Ageas Bowl - Hampshire CCC Ground

Jack Campbell has taken the long route to play for his home county’s first team.

The tall left-arm fast bowler was spotted by James Tomlinson while playing for Steep Cricket Club, just outside Petersfield, before progressing through the Hampshire age groups and Academy.

But once he turned 18, with Academy cricket ending and players like international duo Fidel Edwards and Kyle Abbott turning out in the Second XI, he decided to move in with family in Newcastle while heading to Durham University to study Sports Science.

Campbell ended up spending four years with Durham – where he earned an England U19 call-up in 2018 and impressed in last season’s Royal London Cup enough to pick up a full-time contract.

He asked to be released from that contract in June and after getting back in contact with mentor Tomlinson has been a starring light of Hampshire’s thus far perfect Royal London Cup campaign – picking up 11 wickets with an astonishing economy of just over four runs per over.

“Everything has gone so well so far,” the 22-year-old, one of 21 Portsmouth-born cricketers to play first-class cricket for Hampshire, said. “The last couple of months, I’ve found my bowling to be the easiest and most accurate it has ever been.

“It has been helpful that there is such a good atmosphere in the squad. Everyone believes that regardless of what happens in the first innings, we can always chase down or defend anything with the group we have. That’s the attitude we take into every game.

“We have scraped over the line in a couple of games, but we have never felt like we will lose; it is full confidence that we will win.

“Everyone is enjoying their cricket, and that is one of the main things helping us keep on winning.”

Three people have been integral to Campbell’s form. First up, Bowling coach Graeme ‘Pop’ Welch.

“Pop’s been the guy who’s changed everything for me,” Campbell said. “For me, he’s almost not like a coach, but more like a friend.

“The main thing I’ve noticed since I joined Hampshire is how happy and positive the whole squad is, and I think he is probably the main person who has created that environment.

“His main aim as a coach is to clean up everyone’s actions to make it easier on your body. I think before, I was almost trying to think I needed to bowl as quick as I could every ball, and that is obviously going to put a lot of stress on your body.

“He’s changed a few things, and to me, it feels like I’m not really bowling but I am still probably quicker than I’ve ever been. I reckon I am bowling around 83/84mph but Pop reckons if I work with him during the winter, he could get me up to the 90s.”

Then there are the highly experienced first-team duo Keith Barker and Abbott, who are acting as bowling coaches for the 50-over competition.

Campbell, who went through eight weeks of rehabilitation on a side injury before the Royal London Cup, said: “We’re lucky to have Barks and Kyle as bowling coaches for this competition.

“Barks did quite a bit with me just as I was coming back from the injury. He’s played in a couple of games, stood at mid-on or mid-off and talked to me, telling me things I could try.

“In the game against Northamptonshire on the Isle of Wight, he suggested how to bowl two of my balls and I got wickets off of them both. He is a person I want to learn from and study.

“Kyle has played with players like AB De Villiers and has given me a lot of tips about death bowling and things some of the South African batters had told him he needed to do better.

“Players like those two have been good at feeding information back to us youngsters.”

Campbell played in five games, including the semi-final, to help Durham to Trent Bridge last year. But he missed out on playing in the final as Matt Potts and Ben Raine were released from the Hundred.

“I got dropped for the final last year,” Campbell said. “It wasn’t the nicest feeling because I’d played the majority of the group stage games and the semi. It was hard to take and made me more determined than ever.

“I’d love to be a part of a final and hopefully get a win for Hampshire.”

In the longer term, Campbell has his eyes set firmly on staying on the south coast.

“I’d very much like to get a full contract here and hopefully break into the red ball team,” he said.

“I’ve always loved playing red-ball cricket. As a lefty, it is always a good challenge because of the luxury of swinging the ball back to a right-hander. I have always enjoyed that and something I’d like to play.

“Then I’d love to hopefully take part in the Hundred and franchise cricket but international is the ultimate aim.”

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