Unquenchable faith continues to drive Tom Barber on through the ups and downs of his debut season at Middlesex.
The left-arm seamer is back in the Seaxes’ squad for the trip to Leicestershire this week – the latest upturn in a topsy-turvy campaign so far.
There have been glimpses of the potential which earned him a place on the England Performance Programme last winter. Wickets in the one-day game against the touring Australians were followed by a call-up to represent the ECB against India A last week.
But Barber went wicketless in two early-season Championship appearances and was peripheral to their Royal London Cup exploits.
Nevertheless, the speedster has been through worse bumps in the road.
Poole-born Barber’s journey appeared to have hit the buffers when Hampshire released him in 2015.
But the 22-year-old refused to accept he’d join the ranks of those who’d never make it.
“Initially being released by Hampshire was pretty difficult in terms of thinking where am I going to go next, but I always believed I was good enough to make it and be here now,” he said.
“Counties want left-arm bowlers of high pace, so I went back to Dorset and worked with Paul Prichard, who took me under his wing and gave me the opportunity to bowl fast.
“But I would also go down the nets and bowl on my own.”
For a lad who began as a left-arm spinner until a growth spurt prompted a change of pace, the hard yards of solitude proved fruitful when Barber impressed in a trial for Middlesex in 2016.
Thereafter, Seaxes’ bowling coach Richard Johnson began the process of harnessing his raw pace, resulting in a second chance in the professional ranks a year later.
“Johnno is one of the best in the business in terms of how you go about a process of improving and getting better,” he said.
“He’s cleaned up my action and made sure I’m using every ounce of power to bowl as quickly as possible.
“It’s about using my front side and front arm a bit more. We’ve talked about rocking back, getting my arm up and really pointing towards the target.
“It was difficult at first learning something new, but I’m starting to get the hang of it now and understand my action more.
“When you see the ball coming out at 90mph and swinging back in it’s a massive confidence booster.”
A little more self-belief may be needed yet, as barring unforeseen injuries to Steven Finn, Tim Murtagh or James Harris, Barber is still likely to miss the cut at Grace Road, but he’ll have the consolation of leading the 2nd XI attack in their one-day Trophy final against Somerset at Radlett on Thursday.
He knows nailing down a first XI spot will be tough – but with Middlesex needing wins to get into the promotion shake-up – Barber vowed to be ready if summoned for a time of the season when he believes bowlers come into their own.
“A lot of the boys are England squad or Lions and to win a Championship you need that kind of bowling line-up,” he added.
“If one of them goes off to England which they hopefully do, I’ll be waiting to take my opportunity.
“It is harder when you get towards the end of the summer where the pitches are flatter and you need to put in an effort. That is when the bowlers come up trumps for me.”
One man who will make a return to Championship cricket against the Foxes is Ravi Patel, reward for his 15 wickets in the Royal London Cup.
His promotion saw Middlesex confirm a loan move to Hampshire for Ollie Rayner, who will spend a month at the Ageas Bowl.
Our thanks go to Jon Batham of the ECB Reporters network for this interview and article.