Matt Hague goes from the Outback to up top for Sawston & Babraham
PUBLISHED: 07:00 03 August 2017
Iliffe Media Ltd
Opener among the runs this season
To many people, Ayers Rock – or Uluru, as it is known to the Aboriginal people of that area – is a world-famous tourist attraction on a bucket list of places to visit.
But to Matt Hague, the giant sandstone monolith in the middle of Australia was perhaps a handbrake on his early cricketing aspirations.
The 30-year-old has hit a rich vein of form for Sawston & Babraham in the last couple of months after a slow start to the season, and that is a similar story to his path in the sport.
We tend to think of the cricket pitch being a natural habitat for Australians, given the way they have excelled for generations, with a production line always battling to earn the baggy green cap.
However, Hague’s passion for the sport took its time to get into full flow as he was living at the Ayers Rock resort, where his parents were working.
“I lived in the Northern Territory for a little while, so in the Outback, and I didn’t really have anyone to play cricket with until we moved into the city. I was 16 when I played my first game,” he said.
“Where I was living we only had 40 kids in the whole school, so you didn’t really have too many people to play against, not too many kids my own age as well.
“It was an interesting place to grow up that’s for sure. There wasn’t much to do, especially cricket wise, there was no-one to play with or against.
“There are 1,000 people in the town, and I lived there from when I was seven to 15. It was an interesting place to live, and that’s probably when most people are getting into cricket really, with all the junior stuff.
“It was just me and Dad in the front yard with a tennis ball and a bat. I moved to Adelaide, joined a team and away we went.”
And that enjoyment of the game brought Hague to these shores five years ago, with his first club in the UK being Vauxhall Mallards in Norfolk.
He then played for Sawston seconds in the CCA Leagues – because of the overseas rule – but switched to Burwell for a couple of years before moving back to the team from Spicers Sports Ground.
And Sawston & Babraham are going great guns in Whiting & Partners Cambs & Hunts Premier League Division Two. They are in second spot, six points behind leaders Kimbolton, and are handily placed to mount a promotion challenge.
“Last year we really struggled,” said Hague. “The first half of the year we didn’t play well and the second half we played really well.
“It’s just been a big confidence thing with the group this year. I can’t really put my finger on it. Personally, I think we’ve got the best side in the league, and maybe it’s a bit of a belief thing now and the players can see it.
“I think we’re starting to expect to win games now rather than going in a bit unknown. It’s probably the best position the club has been in for quite a few years now.
“We have four senior sides who are doing all right. The oval is probably one of the better-looking ovals now in the county, it’s really nice facilities, top drawer, so I think it’s about time we got the firsts into Division One and go from there really.”
It may be Hague’s first year in the first team, but you would not have guessed given the way he has taken up the challenge.
He is in the top three batsmen for runs in the division, although, by his own admission, he made a slow start to the campaign. And with a target of an average of over 50, it is not yet one of his best seasons.
“The first part I struggled quite a bit, but it’s starting to feel a bit better now so hopefully I can finish the year in a bit of nick,” he said. “I’ve probably had six or seven single-figure scores, which is probably not ideal, but I probably put pretty high standards on myself, I think.
“I would expect to make runs most weeks really, but I haven’t been too consistent this year, which has been a little bit frustrating.
“The last five weeks I feel a lot better and I just need to start turning them into bigger scores than 50s and 60s.
“We’ve been pretty competitive and are only second by six points. And if we can continue and keep winning, that’s what we play for really.”