Cricket: Import's all-round skills to lift Stags

By Anendra Singh

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X FACTOR: English import Josh Cobb may be a pivotal force tomorrow in helping CD claim their first win this summer.
X FACTOR: English import Josh Cobb may be a pivotal force tomorrow in helping CD claim their first win this summer.

THE ENEMY have done their research on Josh Cobb and know "a little bit" about the English import cricketer.

"We've got little messages from his agent, as you do from agents who get pretty active this time of the year," the Northern Districts Knights coach, James Pamment, says before the Devon Hotel Central Districts Stags host them at Saxton Oval, Nelson, tomorrow when the HRV Cup Twenty20 campaign resumes.

Cobb, a Leicestershire County Cricket Club allrounder, is the latest signing for the Heinrich Malan-coached Stags who are seeking their maiden victory this summer in the T20 or four-day Plunket Shield formats.

The 23-year-old arrived in the country last week and was yesterday in Queenstown with fellow English import Peter Trego before CD converge at Nelson in a bid to turn around a 2-0 deficit after the opening round at Christchurch in November was washed out without a ball bowled.

The clash tomorrow will be between the table-topping Knights against last-placed Stags, who desperately need a win to stay in the hunt for a playoffs although ND have played four rounds while CD are on three.

In the opening round on November 16 at Seddon Park, Hamilton, the Daniel Flynn-captained ND beat Kieran Noema-Barnett's troops by 31 runs.

Pamment hailed CD for their acquisition of Cobb who is looking to further his professional career.

"Hopefully he won't be performing so well against us this week but we've done our homework on him," the Englishman says of Cobb who is competing for the first time in New Zealand.

Speaking from Queenstown, Cobb says T20 is about momentum so CD need to find a foothold preferably tomorrow.

"There's no reason why we can't get into the semifinals," says the right-hander who opens batting in the county arena in white-ball competitions.

Adept at bowling right-arm off breaks, he enjoys taking the shine off the new ball but is happy to slot into Malan's equation for the side.

"I think I'll be in the top three somewhere ... so I'm hoping to do to the best of my ability."

Away from home for the first time at Christmas, he was at the mercy of Somerset allrounder Trego's cooking which comprised "ham and cheese toasties" and takeaway burgers and bread rolls on the off chance.

"Tregs is now helping me settle in and knows the place better," he says, enjoying the "top-draw" weather of Hawke's Bay for the first couple of days but was "feeling at home" in wet, cooler Dunedin this week in the four-day Plunket Shield match against the Otago Volts as a spectator.

Cobb, who made his debut for Leicestershire in 2007 at 17 and has played for the Dhaka Gladiators in the Bangladesh competition, is emulating the feat of his father, Russell Cobb, who was also a Leicestershire batsmen.

His uncle, Russell Spiers, has also played cricket to minor county level.

Conceding he isn't savvy in the game of life just yet, Cobb is finding traction in the "words of wisdom" from his father who works as head coach at Loughborough University.

"He [father] doesn't say much but I'm getting older so I'm listening to him more."

The younger Cobb has had his share of limelight for the wrong reasons.

On September 1 this year the police arrested him with Leicestershire teammate Ned Eckersley for being drunk and disorderly.

"It was just a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

"I was out with some friends having a good time and it just spiralled out of control," he says, adding Eckersley is a "good cricketer".

Because of injury in 2011, his county club refused to release him to go to Bangladesh prompting the cricketer to vent his spleen on social media.

In hindsight, he accepts that was not a good decision.

The former England under-19 cricketer, who scored scored a double century for the national age-group team, has accumulated 63 county first-class matches, 50 one-dayers and 62 T20 games.

He has amassed 2330, 1582 and 1030 runs in the respective formats with a batting average of 23.06, 36.79 and 21.02 accordingly.

He has two tons and a dozen 50s in whites and four centuries and seven half centuries in one-dayers.

In the 20-over game, he has notched four half tons.

His top score at first-class level is 148 not out. In one-dayers he has carved up 137 runs and at T20 level he has been unbeaten on 67.

Cobb, whose girlfriend Rachel Knappier lives in Leicester, has snared nine first-class wickets, 20 one-day scalps and claimed 26 T20 victims.

His best bowling figures are 2-11 in whites, 3-34 in one-dayers and 4-22 in T20s.

He possesses a trusty pair of hands claiming 30, 14 and 31 catches in the three formats starting in whites.

The former Oakham School pupil was named man of the match in the Friends Life T20 final which Leicestershire won in 2011 against Somerset.

He also has leadership qualities, captaining Leicestershire's limited-overs team, succeeding ex-England international Matthew Hoggard in July 2012 before assuming the mantle of vice-captain this northern summer under West Indies international Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Cobb has international aspirations for his country and considers himself a better candidate for the white-ball formats.

Pamment says ND will be without quality players such as Daniel Vettori (playing Big Bash in Australia) and Aussie imports Daniel Harris and Ben Laughlin.

"We're very confident our [current] boys can to do the job [tomorrow] and will excel," he says, adding ND are keen to play on a venue that will stage a World Cup limited-overs game in 2015.

However, young Big Bash fast bowler Chris Tremain (Thunder) will reportedly become the third Oz import to play for ND from tomorrow.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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