Joe Cracknell made a name for himself last season by showcasing his white-ball credentials in front of returning crowds at Lord’s and Radlett.
The right-handed batter scored 281 runs in 11 Vitality Blast matches and struck two half-centuries in the process, with a top score of 77 against Hampshire.
Off the back of his impressive performances in the T20 competition, Cracknell was snapped up by London Spirit for the inaugural edition of the Hundred; a just reward for the hard work he had put in up to that point.
Speaking about 2021, the 22-year-old said: “It was a surreal year. If someone said to me that I’d had played the amount of T20 cricket that I did, play in the Hundred and make my first-class debut, I would have bitten your hand off for those opportunities.
“To actually get those opportunities and play well was reassuring. I felt comfortable playing in the T20s and I was thrilled to a be a part of the Hundred.”
Cracknell played three matches towards the back-end of the competition and scored 55 runs, with a best score of 35 which came against Welsh Fire.
He explained that for him and for other young cricketers like him, the Hundred was a fantastic opportunity and almost like a shop window to springboard a career from a fringe player in the county system to a globetrotting franchise superstar.
“To have the coaching staff [that London Spirit had], which included Shane Warne – was amazing,” said Cracknell.
“To pick his brain was surreal. To be able to showcase what I could offer in the nets and then later on the bigger stage, to play in the last couple of games, was something that I didn’t really expect, but felt like I took in my stride better than I thought I would.
“I’d love to be involved again. It was great to see so many people of different ages and of different backgrounds enjoy our game – I think every game was sold out.”
All of the success that we see happens in front of packed stands and raucous crowds on a Thursday night – however, away from the public eye, it’s the people behind the scenes that are moulding Cracknell into the exciting young prospect that he is today.
He recalled a conversation with the Club’s T20 Captain and someone he idolized growing up – Eoin Morgan: “He put me at total ease and just told me to express myself.
“It wasn’t only Morgy that gave me confidence, it was also the guys that I grew up with – all of a sudden I’m sharing the dressing room with them representing Middlesex’s First Eleven. Sometimes I have to pinch myself at moments and think to myself ‘is this actually happening?’
“Morgy changed white-ball cricket batting-wise – to bat with him and speak to him, picking his brains about cricket was unbelievable.”
Cracknell is a Middlesex Academy product and came out of the system at a similar time to other North Middlesex colts, which include: Ethan Bamber, Max Harris and Luke Hollman.
In cricket, one of the best things is getting to spend time playing with friends. In the amateur game, this is something that may happen for years. However, with the cut and thrust nature of professional sport, this is less common.
However, with so many young cricketers currently in the ranks at Middlesex, Cracknell believes that this group can achieve special things in the years to come.
“It’s quite strange to have a group of guys who have grown up together. We are all really good mates and are really close,” Cracknell explained.
“To be in that unique setting is a massive thing and I think you’re more inclined to do the best you can for a mate rather than a teammate and going the extra mile.
“The building blocks for good teams are relationships, so hopefully in the next few years good things can happen – however, at the moment it’s all about small steps to eventually reach the goals that we all want to achieve.”
Cracknell is hungry to develop further and is committed to doing this during the upcoming summer.
“I would love to play as much T20 cricket as I can, but something I’ve been working on a lot over the winter is my red-ball game – although, it’s not as refined as I would like, but by working on my game more and playing more games for the Second Eleven, builiding big scores is an important thing that I need to learn and something that I’m really keen to learn.”