WATCH | Zampa set for Eagles debut


Essex’s overseas recruit for the Vitality Blast, Adam Zampa, has spent five weeks acclimatising to English conditions, immersing himself in the local club scene, getting to know his new team-mates.

The Australian leg-spinner’s contract with Essex did not start until July 1, but he has been in this country since the end of May in readiness for the Blast, which starts tonight against Sussex Sharks at The Cloudfm County Ground, and continues on Friday at home against Middlesex. Zampa has played a handful of games for Brentwood in the Shepherd Neame Essex Premier League and taken 18 wickets, including a six-wicket haul on debut.

Zampa, whose globe-trotting has taken in the IPL and Caribbean Super League, as well as the Big Bash, explains: “I have been conscious in the past of making sure I hit the ground running. If I had just arrived I wouldn’t be bowling as well as I am now. The ball’s coming out really well. I feel like I’ve had enough bowling now and I feel comfortable with the guys. I’ve had the numbers on the board in terms of overs and wickets where I feel like I’ve bowled well enough to play the Blast.

“You go into club cricket knowing it’s not your level, but there is also a bit of expectation on your back. It’s also an opportunity to try things and have fun. Sometimes being a professional cricketer is not the most fun thing, going around the world and all that stuff. I don’t absolutely love the game, so just to go and play club cricket, enjoy it, and get in the habit of taking four, five, six wickets on the weekend gives a massive confidence-boost.”

The 26-year-old Zampa is with the Eagles for the entire T20 season, including finals day in September, if Essex qualify for the first time since 2013. He is looking forward to sampling the atmosphere of Chelmsford Friday nights under the lights, and trying to defend the notoriously short boundaries. “I know what to expect,” he says, “I’ve been told a few times!

“The biggest thing for me is the size of the grounds. In Australian Big Bash games, my home ground is the MCG [for Melbourne Stars] and that’s one of the biggest grounds in the world. And here it’s like a postage stamp!

“You’ve just got to bowl good balls. It’s one of those things being a leg-spinner: you’re going to get hit over the fence. It’s the way you come back that’s important. I know my role in the team is to take wickets through the middle overs. That makes a huge difference to winning games of T20 cricket. You know you’re going to get hit, it’s about minimalising that and getting as many wickets as you can.”

Zampa has a number of variations and changes of pace in his locker. “The best thing about being a wrist spinner,” he says, “is having the option to spin it away from the bat, and bowling a slider as a defensive option, too. I have a few tricks, but they are pretty simple ones. Before I bowl a ball I try and think what’s best for the team at this point. Do we need a wicket or do we just want to get this guy off strike?

“The good batsmen are forward-thinkers and know what the bowlers are going to bowl pretty much before it’s bowled. I need to be one step ahead of them because, normally, they’re a step ahead of you.”

Zampa has played 13 T20s for Australia, and 31 one-day internationals, the most recent at the turn of the year. He is philosophical being omitted from the squad that has just finished a white-ball series in England, and is now in Zimbabwe. “I was a bit flat and disappointed about it,” he admits. “But I’m also seeing the positive side. The selectors have said they want a wrist spinner at the World Cup next year, so my thinking is if I have a good summer here, bowl well, have a good Australian summer, then I think I’ll have a very good chance of making the squad.”