The Definitive: Nick Knight

England and Warwickshire southpaw Nick Knight talks Jo Harman through the highs and lows of a run-laden career.

160 | England under 19s v New Zealand under 19s, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, September 1989

I don’t think it was until I played for England under 19s that I really believed I could play at the top level. I got 160 at Old Trafford against a good New Zealand side, including Chris Cairns and Adam Parore. That was probably the moment where I convinced myself that I could have a proper crack at this cricket lark.

157 | Essex v Sussex, County Championship, Chelmsford, September 1994

The thing that sticks out from my time at Essex is opening the batting with Graham Gooch. That was a phenomenal experience. At that time he was the best player in the country and one of the best in the world and watching him made me realise there was still a hell of a lot of work to do. I remember a spell from Paul Jarvis on a lively wicket and I was ducking and diving, playing and missing, and Goochie was just smacking it. I think I got 150 in the end but it’s the difficult start that I remember – I was just trying to survive.

286 runs @ 29 | England A tour of India, January-February 1995

It was a big boost to go away with England A. I’ll be honest though, things were still a little bit up in the air. I was never one of those players that thought, ‘I’ve made it, I’m on the big-time bus’. I was excited, of course – and hopeful. But nothing more. India presented its own difficulties and I batted for long periods in those ‘Test’ matches but didn’t get that many runs – I got 30s and 40s and didn’t really make the impact that I’d hoped. I came away thinking, ‘I think I can do this but I’m still not fully convinced’.

887 runs @ 49 | County Championship season, 1995

It was a hell of a tough decision to leave Essex but they had so many good players that I always felt I was going to have limited opportunities and Warwickshire gave me the chance to open the batting. Bob Woolmer was coach at the time and he was good mates with Gordon Barker, who was my mentor at school, and that had a bit to do with the move. I had a decent first season without making big hundreds – I think I got a big score at the end of the year. Allan Donald was our overseas that year and he played a significant part in us winning the Championship. We all chipped in and did our bit but he was the star man and without him I’m not sure we’d have won the trophy.

17 & 13 | England v West Indies, 4th Test, Old Trafford, July 1995

I was thrown in at the deep end, against Ambrose, Walsh and Bishop on a quick wicket. I was actually out first ball, caught at short-leg off an Ambrose no ball. I didn’t hear Dickie Bird’s call and got called back. I was thinking that was it: one go, one ball. But I got the reprieve and batted for another hour-and-a-half or so. I only got 17 but I took something from that and got a fifty in the next Test at Trent Bridge. It gave me some confidence that I could play at that level.

113 | England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Headingley, August 1996

My first innings batting at No.6 and my only Test century. I really enjoyed batting at No.6 and I found it a bit easier, not facing the new ball against Akram and Younis and coming to the wicket when the game had already taken shape. I’ve always been brutally honest that technically it was a big battle for me: trying to keep my balance and not fall over, to keep my bat coming down straight – all the sort of basic stuff that you teach kids. I really had a constant 15-year battle to try and find a way. I found it from time to time but the technical element of my game was always my downfall. Would I have had more success if I’d batted at No.6 on a regular basis? I probably would have done.

125 | England v Pakistan, 3rd ODI, Trent Bridge, September 1996

My first ODI ton [113] at Edgbaston the previous day was pretty lucky actually. It was error-strewn – chipping the ball here, missing a fielder there – but it was a great confidence-booster, and a special moment being at Edgbaston. The innings at Trent Bridge the next day was the one I really cherish though. It was a much more classy innings – much more fluent, much more what I would expect of myself. I gained a lot of confidence from that innings. I look back on my one-day career with a tremendous amount of pride. If someone had told me when I was playing under 19s that I was going to play 100 one-day internationals, average 40, make a pretty decent impact on the game and go on tour with a World XI to New Zealand, I’d have said ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’.

1,520 runs @ 95 | County Championship season, 2002

The 2002 season was the only time where I really mastered my technique. It took me 10 years but I’d found a way! I was always constantly battling with moving across the crease and I changed my triggers so that instead of going back and across I just did one single trigger down the pitch with my front foot. It made my alignment much straighter. I had a phenomenal season and felt aggrieved when I didn’t get picked for the Ashes that winter. I believe I should have gone, but that’s how the cookie crumbles. Maybe I’d have been found out technically again. Who knows?

30 | England v Australia, World Cup group match, Port Elizabeth, March 2003

Mentally I’d just had enough of ODIs. I found cricket really difficult and therefore for me to have any form of success – in the Test, ODI or county game – I had to work bloody hard. I was quite a mechanical player, quite processed. I spent a lot of time in my hotel room thinking about the game. Eventually that just wears you down. Before the tour of Australia I worked out that if I played every match there and in the World Cup that followed then I’d notch up 100 games and that would be a nice way to finish. I don’t think there were any plans to drop me and I could easily have played on but I knew the time had come.

303* | Middlesex v Warwickshire, County Championship, Lord’s, June 2004

It was an amazing moment. I think it’s still the highest score by a left-hander at Lord’s in any form of cricket – at least that’s what I’m told by our trusty Benedict at Sky. When I got to 250 I was thinking, ‘How long should I carry on here?’ I was captain and needed to make a declaration at some point. What made it even more special was that we bowled them out twice to win the game on a flat Lord’s deck. If I’d gone on a bit too long and then we’d had them eight down I might have thought ‘Why did I do that?’ With a Championship to win those points were crucial so it was an important game for us to win as a team and a big one for me personally.

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