New Zealand and Kent cricket star Matt Henry says Halstead spell a decade ago gave him the perfect platform
Matt Henry spent the summer of 2010 with Halstead Cricket Club – a season in which, according to the man himself, he did not set the world alight.
Yet, it would prove to be a period that provided the now 28-year-old New Zealand international with the perfect grounding for an ongoing career that has seen him make his Test debut at Lord’s, as well as featuring in two Cricket World Cup finals.
In total, Henry – then aged 18 – bowled 218 overs for Halstead during his 19 appearances for the club’s Saturday and Sunday sides.
Those yielded a return of 32 wickets at an average 23.13, while he also scored 413 runs with the bat.
Perhaps not statistics that were indicative of what was to come for the Kiwi, but nevertheless respectable numbers for one so young taking his first steps in men’s cricket.
“This was my first year out of school and my first time away from home,” said Henry, speaking to the Free Press from his native New Zealand.
“I think Halstead’s overseas had fallen through and it sort of fell into place. It was a big step up from the age-group cricket I had been playing back home.
“I can’t remember having a particularly strong season, but you learn more from playing than doing anything else.
“It was my first experience of England, the Dukes ball and different wickets. The competition was strong and there was top overseas players in every team – I remember playing one of the Marshall brothers for example.
“I did get hit around at times, but I learned so much. There was no real expectations, it was all about developing my game and I did that.
“I went back home to Canterbury and in the end went from being a capable spare bowler to making my debut and winning the Plunkett Shield at the end of that season.
“After that I went back to England with Horsham in Sussex, then back to Canterbury and everything happened quite quickly after that.
“It is all about taking your chances, and being at Halstead was a big part of that.”
Henry initially came to England on a one-year exchange at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich.
He was soon put into contact with a Halstead side who were embarking on their second straight season in the East Anglian Premier League, and while it was a stint that helped to improve his game, he was also thankful for the swift acceptance he received at Star Stile.
“From a playing point of view nobody put any pressure on me,” said Henry, who is currently ranked the eighth best one-day international bowler in the world.
“But the club was also so welcoming. I was a long way from home and the people there helped me to adjust.
“When I couldn’t get back to Ipswich after matches I would spend the weekend there and people would put me up on their couches.
“I met a lot of great people and I loved every minute of it.
“It is a shame that I have lost touch with the club over the years, but hopefully when I’m next over I can pop in and say hi to everyone.”
Charlie Douglas-Hughes is one of the players from that era who formed a strong bond with the right-armer.
The middle-order batsman was convinced Henry would make a career from the game, although he could not have predicted just how far he’d go. The Black Caps international also proved to be a good house guest!
“He had a lot of pace and back then he bowled very full,” said Douglas-Hughes.
“At that age he was always going to be quite raw, but with that pace and control – as well as the way he trained – you could see he was going to go on to bigger and better things.
“He always got the mix right. He’d have some beers with the group but then when it came to training and playing, nothing got in the way of that. He was quite a mature character for someone so young.
“He stayed at mine a few times and I’d come downstairs to find him washing up in his pants! He kept the place tidy, so I can’t complain.
“It is a bit of shock to see how far he has gone because you can never predict that, but you knew he’d do well.”
Presently, Henry is member of a New Zealand side that is widely accepted to play some of the most exciting brand of cricket in all three formats of the game.
They are second in the current Test standings behind Australia, while they have been runner-up in the last two Cricket World Cups – including last year’s dramatic final against England at Lord’s.
“It has been pretty awesome to be involved over the last five or six years – it has been a great ride,” said Henry, whose first international appearance came just four years after leaving Halstead.
“We’ve had a lot of success and there is a lot of depth at the moment.
“We have some big goals as a squad, and we have to make sure we keep taking our chances and keep growing.
“The World Cup in England was a great example. It showed what we are about, now we want to go one better.”
More by this authorLiam Apicella