Gary Keedy believes he returned from a broken collarbone to bowl better than ever during the summer of 2010.
The experienced left armer missed the first three months of the last county campaign after an unpleasant accident in the field during a pre-season friendly against Durham at Old Trafford in early April.
But he returned 31 wickets from seven County Championship matches, nine from six Clydesdale Bank 40 matches and four from four Twenty20 fixtures when fit again from early July onwards.
His impressive four-day haul came at a fantastic average of 22.19, and it included a career-best haul of 7-68 in the loss against Durham at Old Trafford in August.
Despite that, he was far more satisfied with his haul of 5-81 in the penultimate match of the season against runners up Somerset.
The 36 year-old said: “Taunton was one of the best spells I’ve ever bowled during my career. In terms of what was on the game, the quality of opposition we came up against and the placid nature of the pitch down there, everything just came together really well for me.”
Keedy’s role in the Championship side for the first half of the season was taken up by youngster Simon Kerrigan, who turned heads with 30 wickets at 32.23 in his debut season.
Kerrigan was also a vital cog in the Lightning’s Twenty20 wheel, as was fellow left armer Stephen Parry.
Parry, who also claimed eleven 40 over wickets, was one of the top five bowlers in the country in Twenty20 cricket last season as he took 26 wickets from 17 matches at an average of 16.42.
Kerrigan and Parry, who earned an England Lions call up on the back of his T20 displays, have been selected to parts of the current winter on ECB Performance Programme duty in India and Australia respectively.
Keedy, who also played for the England Lions against the touring Australians in 2009, continued: “There are lots of thoughts that go through your mind when you’re trying to come back from a serious injury.
“My first impressions were ‘would I play again, would I come back as good as I was?’
“Obviously Parry did well in one day and Twenty20 cricket and Keggsy (Kerrigan) in the Championship and Twenty20, so getting back in the team was my first target. To come back and play so well was more than I could have hoped for.”
Less than a fortnight before his outfield accident, Keedy had spoken about his determination to continue playing for as long as he could despite being in his mid thirties whilst on pre-season tour in Barbados.
That still remains the same for Keedy, who is currently studying physiotherapy at Salford University. He has also undertaken a nine week placement in a Burnley Hospital since September.
Last season’s beneficiary continued: “The game has changed massively since I started. With the levels that we train at now, I don’t think that age is a barrier. People used to have these pre-conceived ideas that once you get to 30-odd you drop off the conveyor belt. That’s not the case now.
“At 36 years old I’m fitter than I was at 26, I’m performing better than I was at 26 – and I’m enjoying my cricket more than I ever have done. I didn’t used to be a regular in the one-day side, I only ever really played in the Championship when it was a two spinner pitch.
“But the last couple of years, barring my injury, I’ve been a fixture in the first team in all forms of the game. As long as my body will last up to it, I’ll play for as long as I can.”
As well as his study and hospital placement, Keedy has seen the first part of the winter as the ideal opportunity to work on his fitness.
He added: “Because I missed the first three months of the season, I didn’t feel tired at all at the end of September. I thought I might as well use the chance to get fit and stay fit, so I’ve been training hard since the end of the season.”
2011 may be a new year, but the Red Rose faithful will be hoping it will be the same old Gary Keedy.
Photo: Simon Pendrigh, Peakpix Digital Images