English cricket has produced its fair share of world-class left-arm spinners in recent years, and Durham and Northumberland hotshot Ollie McGee is hoping he can be the next off the production line.
The 19-year-old honed his skills as a junior by bowling countless balls to his younger brother Ben at Tynemouth Cricket Club – then just round the corner from his house.
But after a move to Jesmond and with two years of Minor Counties cricket under his belt at Northumberland, McGee is showing he has the potential follow the likes of Ashley Giles and Monty Panesar.
In just five outings last season he took 34 wickets for Northumberland’s Championship XI, including returns of 6-44 against Lincolnshire and 7-81 versus Staffordshire.
And with another season of Unicorns cricket approaching, McGee is hoping this might be a year a county comes calling after making two appearances for Durham’s 2nd XI.
“Obviously in a perfect world I’d love 60 wickets across all formats this year but I’m not getting too ahead of myself,” he said.
“Then if there is an opportunity to play at county level, whether that be at Durham or anywhere else, I want to take it.
“Playing at a level that’s higher than Minor Counties would be a huge milestone for me and it is what I want in the future.
“Last season was a big platform and it’s up to me now to shine from there, to take more wickets and score more runs.
“The last two years I feel like Northumberland have come on so much – as just a couple of seasons ago we were seriously struggling – and to be a part of that has been immense.”
Growing up with Panesar making his splash on the international scene and New Zealand’s Daniel Vettori at the peak of his powers, it is easy to see why the art of left-arm spin may have been appealing to a 10-year-old McGee.
But he admits his bowling style was more a case of nature over nurture – although now he relishes the added opportunities his niche skill brings him.
He said: “I’ve always bowled spin as I’ve always been short, so I couldn’t be a fast bowler when I was four foot tall! I only started growing when I was 15.
“Daniel Vettori was the man I looked up to mainly growing up, although of course Ashley Giles and Monty Panesar were on the scene for England.
“It’s not exactly unique to be a left-arm spinner, but it is not something you see that often.
“It does help to an extent as it gives you more options in terms of angles to play with.
“It’s just something different for the batsman to face, but you still have to work hard on your skill to be successful.”
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