Mark Chilton chuckled knowingly when asked about the day he was trapped lbw by Lancashire colleague Tom Smith as the pair came face to face in a Victorian Premier Cricket League match between Melbourne University and St Kilda earlier this winter.
The Red Rose opening batsman describes the moment as “hugely disappointing”, before going on to say that he escaped some banter from Smith because the young bowler is “too nice”.
“I was determined that he wasn’t going to get me out in his first spell, but then I missed a straight one when he came back on,” explained Chilton, rather sheepishly. “We were batting pretty slowly before lunch, so I thought we needed to move things on afterwards. I probably shouldn’t have done, and I just missed a straight one.”
Mark, wife Hayley and daughter Bethan Rose travelled down under in early October after a frustrating county season for the opener. He was desperate to continue some late season form in Melbourne’s premier club competition. He will join up with the Lancashire squad in the UAE for the pre-season tour in mid-March following the imminent birth of his second child.
“We have really enjoyed ourselves” said Chilton. “It has been nice to get a break from the UK, and everyone at the club have been really helpful. The club is a great club, we haven’t played that well, but we are a very young side.
Chilton, who had a frustrating summer of 2008 with Lancs after giving up the captaincy, returned to form in spectacular fashion towards the end of the season with a Championship century against Kent and a polished 97 in the final fixture of the summer at Somerset.
He scored a century for Melbourne early on in the season, and hit 89 on Saturday.
“I have had quite a few 30’s and 40’s - and I have been run out three times, which has been very frustrating. But I have been hitting the ball quite nicely,” he assessed.
In between netting twice a week and playing at the weekends, Chilton has been filling some more of his time by coaching pupils at the local Scotch College.
“I certainly don’t feel like I had exhausted myself last season, like I maybe had done in previous years, and I don’t feel cricketed out now,” he continued. “I feel in good shape because I have worked hard on my fitness. I am preparing myself for Dubai now, and I am looking forward to getting back and seeing the lads.”
Chilton only played six Championship matches last term. He captained the second team for a while, and even turned out for Newton-le-Willows in the Liverpool Competition at the weekends. But his uplifting end to the campaign, which mirrored the collective effort to avoid four-day relegation, has given him new hope for the summer ahead.
“I learnt from last year that you can’t expect anything,” he says. “We have a new coach coming in, and to a certain extent the slate will be wiped clean. I think I proved towards the end of last season that I was unlucky not to play more than I did. I hope to play more this year, but if you start thinking about it too seriously then you can get into a dangerous mindset.”
Chilton described the appointment of new head coach Peter Moores by saying that “England’s loss is Lancashire’s gain”.
“I don’t think there is any doubting his abilities as a coach, but clearly the situation with England was a very unfortunate one.”
Lancashire swooped for Macclesfield-born Moores just a month after his departure as England boss.
“It’s great news,” continued Chilton, who led Lancashire for three seasons between 2005-2007. “The club needed to get the best candidate available, they clearly wanted a big appointment, and there is no doubt that Peter has got a great track record. I had a net with Chris Nash, the Sussex batsman, recently, just a few throw downs on the bowling machine, and he said that Peter was fabulous during his time as coach down there,” continued Chilton.
Nash, who scored his maiden first-class century against Lancashire last season, is also playing in the Victorian Premier Cricket League with Richmond.
Not only has Moores worked with the likes of Andrew Flintoff, James Anderson and Sajid Mahmood before, but he has also worked with a whole host of other Lancashire players too.
He helped to groom Tom Smith during his time as head of the ECB National Academy, while others like Karl Brown and Steven Mullaney have crossed his path while doing the 12th man duties in Old Trafford Tests for England.
“As England boss I am sure that he would have had an awareness of most players in county cricket, so he will certainly not be coming into the job completely cold,” added Chilton.
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CC Ltd