Feature provided by the ECB Reporters Network.
Just a few months ago, Josh de Caires remained unconvinced of his credentials as a first-team bowler – but he’s now become Middlesex’s go-to spin option in all formats.
Having originally broken into the side as a top-three batter who bowled occasional off-spin, De Caires has moved down the order and impressed with the ball in both the Vitality Blast and County Championship this summer.
In the four-day game, the 21-year-old has overtaken Luke Hollman as first-choice spinner following a career-best seven for 144 against Hampshire – and he now has an opportunity to cement his newly-attained role as a genuine all-rounder in this month’s Metro Bank One Day Cup.
“If I’m being honest with myself, I’m still predominantly a batter,” De Caires admitted. “But bowling is something I’ve been working on and I do see a future with it.
“It’s definitely improved in the last year and a half, but the first T20 I played this year against Gloucestershire at Bristol, which was on quite a helpful pitch – I think that was when I felt I could actually bowl at first-team level.
“The Championship game at Hampshire was a big moment as well. It was really nice to get those rewards but if anything I was more pleased with bowling almost 48 overs and finding ways of minimising the scoring, only going at maybe a fraction above threes.
“Primarily my role as a bowler will always be about keeping control and if wickets do come with that, great. A lot of the red-ball games I’ve played were primarily seam dominated, so I’ve never felt massively under pressure.”
De Caires has benefited from working with former England leg-spinner Ian Salisbury, who joined Middlesex as a consultant coach earlier this year and has assisted the youngster in adding more knowhow to his game.
“Sals has helped massively,” said De Caires. “I was mostly self-taught before that. I’ve had various coaches along the way but always tried to explore it myself.
“He’s helped me with various things I hadn’t really thought about – a lot about fields and ways to work batters out, then a few technical pointers as well and I’m starting to see the rewards from that.
“When you pick up a skill for the first time, you’re learning lots very quickly and it’s about practising and making sure I can deliver it consistently. Even since the Hampshire game, I reckon I’ve improved a fair bit.
“I’m really happy to play wherever they need someone to go and I quite like the challenge of becoming flexible and adapting to different roles in the team. Hopefully I can keep putting in performances with the ball as well, it’s about trying to contribute where I can.”
In terms of wicket-taking, De Caires’ contributions have often been invaluable to his team – he prised out Warwickshire’s Sam Hain on the final morning of their recent Championship fixture to help turn the contest decisively in Middlesex’s favour.
Earlier this week, De Caires – bowling in tandem with leg-spinner Hollman – also picked up the big wicket of Hampshire skipper Nick Gubbins during the Seaxes’ One Day Cup opener, although it was not enough to force victory in a rain-affected game at the Ageas Bowl.
An 18-run defeat under DLS calculations puts the onus on Middlesex to kick-start their 50-over campaign when they return to action against Surrey on Saturday, the first of three games in the tournament to be staged at Radlett.
The Cobden Hill venue is more than familiar to De Caires, who began his career playing at club level for Radlett CC and has also featured there for Middlesex’s second XI – as well as a One Day Cup fixture against Kent two years ago, when he top-scored with 43.
“It’s always nice to play at Radlett,” De Caires added. “I’ve played a lot of cricket there growing up. It’s pretty small, which can result in some high-scoring games, so I’m not sure what it’ll be like to bowl!
“I bowled a lot with Luke during the T20 and we worked quite well together, one spinning it away from the right-hander and one spinning it into him. I’m sure if we get to go together again, we’ll be able to help Middlesex win some games in this competition.”