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Mason Crane speaks about returning to training this week

Mason Crane speaks about returning to training this week
Mason Crane speaks about returning to training this week

Mason Crane returned to training this week – but other than his well-honed bowling action the rest was completely alien.

Crane was named as one of the 55 cricketers asked to prepare for international cricket this summer, with West Indies, Ireland and Pakistan set to take on England in bio-secure environments.

But sessions in this Covid-19 age are different and Crane discovered first-hand the strictness of the guidelines when he made his lonely Ageas Bowl comeback on Tuesday.

“It was slightly surreal,” he said. “It was strange being the only player in but pretty cool as well.”

Before leaving home, the 23-year-old had to take his temperature and fill in a questionnaire about his health.

Once he arrived at the Ageas Bowl his temperature was checked again, while still in his car, before he parked in a space no one else was allowed to use.

He was the solitary individual allowed to touch his yoga mats, warm-up bands, target marker discs and balls – if someone else makes contact with them then he can no longer use them.

The only other person at the session with him, for the time being, was Hampshire physio James Clegg, who wore personal protective equipment.

The leg-spinner is one of only two Hampshire players – along with fellow spinner Liam Dawson – currently permitted in the nets, although batsman James Vince will join them in the near future.

“I saw Daws from a distance but we can’t go near each other,” Crane said. “He was pulling up while I was leaving.

“It was at least nice to see a familiar face.”

Once he finally had the ball in hand at the top of his mark, Crane could finally find some normality and the type of training to which he is more accustomed.

“In my first session, I bowled eight or nine overs on my own to see where I was at,” Crane said.

“I try and do the normal stuff I remind myself of, like my run-up and my front arm.

“I got a video of myself and I’ve had a quick look at that ahead of my next session and I have a couple of things I want to look out for.

“I compared that footage to what I’ve seen before and picked up on tiny little things around my alignment – which helps me get into good habits – and properly completing my action.

“The cricket coaches [Adi Birrell and Alfonso Thomas] are coming in next week; this week is about blowing off the cobwebs.”

Crane has spent the past two and a half years since his Test debut forced to stop and start due to multiple back fractures.

After that bow against Australia in Sydney, Crane only managed to play eight matches for Hampshire in 2018 – all in the triumphant Royal London One-Day Cup campaign, albeit with injections to get him through the final.

Last summer, he managed a healthy dose of cricket across all three formats, although a slight relapse saw him miss a month during the Vitality Blast.

Those restarts have proved helpful for this entirely different enforced break.

“Any worries I might have had about restarting weren’t there as I have been through this a few times before,” Crane said.

“It isn’t the end of the world that I have had a break and had to start again.

“I know how it feels and I know how much you need to do to be ready for a game.

“The difference this time is that I’ve come off a long break but not because of an injury. When you start bowling after a long time after an injury all the thoughts are based on your injury and making sure it is okay.

“Because I haven’t had one I can skip that step and focus on my actual bowling and taking a deeper look into it.”

Touch wood, those injury problems are now a thing of the past for Crane, but he admits there will be a lingering worry about his back failing again for the foreseeable future.

He said: “I’ve got no problems with my back at the moment whatsoever.

“The injuries will probably be in the back of my mind for a long time, probably until I have been a few years injury-free.

“My workload will be monitored in a way they weren’t before. I now have a better understanding of my body and what it can take and how much I can bowl before I need to stop."