Late starter Ben Stone makes up for lost time at Cambridge St Giles
Bowler making headway after late beginnings
When it comes to a route into cricket, the path that Ben Stone took is not the most orthodox.
Now happily hurtling down the wicket for Cambridge St Giles in the Whiting & Partners Cambs & Hunts Premier League, Division Two, the 32-year-old took his time to get going in the sport.
Having been more focused on football growing up, Stone only had brief dalliances with cricket before the interest properly started to develop when he was 20.
And that introduction only came about as a favour to younger brother, Joe, who asked his elder sibling to fill in for Vauxhall Mallards’ third team when they were short of players.
“It was just as an eleventh man as they needed someone,” said Stone. “I put on my whites and stood in the field, and that was pretty much it as I started from there.
“It just went on and I ended up taking on the captaincy of the third team at Mallards when I’d played four or five seasons.”
But ‘real life’ then got in the way of Stone’s sporting exploits.
He had studied marine biology at Swansea University and that led to a job at Yarmouth’s Sealife Centre as an aquarist, looking after the exhibits, which meant making sure all the fish and turtles were healthy, fed and that everything was clean.
“It was a fun job, but a very poorly paid job with very long hours and very little career prospects, unfortunately,” said Stone. “It got to a point where I realised I wouldn’t be able to move out from my parents’ house if I was still working there.
“As I had to work three out of four Saturdays, it knocked cricket on the head a bit. I played occasional games but, at the time, the Mallards’ third team I was playing in were doing quite well.
“It wasn’t a case that they were struggling for players and I could drop in. It was quite frustrating at that point because we had got promoted the year before.
“The last game of the season we played against Lowestoft; Olly [his other brother] scored a hundred and I got four wickets.
“It was a really good game and it was the last game the three of us played together because after that Olly ended up going into the twos, and then Mallards’ first team.
“It was a strange spell because I was really into my cricket at that point, but unfortunately work took over.”
It was after deciding to change career to pursue teaching that Stone was able to pick up where he left off in cricket, enjoying spells with Norwich Bystanders and Brook.
And when his fiancée got a job at AstraZeneca, they moved to Cambridge and he joined St Giles.
But cricket has not always been in the Stone family, and the bug only bit when his younger brothers started doing junior training sessions with Vauxhall Mallards.
“Me and my brothers used to play down the side of the house as our driveway was flanked by our house on one side, the neighbour’s on the other and the garage at the end and it was concrete, so it was an ideal cricket net,” said Stone.
“Every night after school we were just down there in the summer. We still take credit that we taught Olly to play cricket from the age of four or five as basically that was where it all took off from.”
What Stone is referring to is Olly’s first-class career.
The former England under-19 captain currently plays for Warwickshire and the bowler is highly-regarded in the game.
“He has got the natural ability,” said Stone. “He is one of those people that can just pick up a tennis racket or a squash racket, and he played for Norwich City until he was 14 so he is a natural sportsman.
“He is 6ft 4in, compared to me who is 5ft 11in; he is beanpole thin and I’m definitely not beanpole thin. He has definitely got the genes for it.
“My middle brother played Norfolk county cricket until he was under-17 and now plays in the Notts Premier League for Chesterfield.
“The three of us are all bowlers of slightly different descriptions. I would describe myself as decidedly medium pace away swing, Joe is an off-spinner and Olly is a right-arm 94mph quick bowler.
“My action is not the most natural of actions. It’s quite low and slingy, not quite as vicious a style as Malinga [the Sri Lanka bowler] but a lower release point than normal from just basically a self-taught action.”
But that is just fine for St Giles.
Stone is now in his second season, having helped them to promotion from the CCA Leagues last year.
They are finding their feet now in Division Two, having taken time to adjust in the early part of the campaign, with availability having an impact.
“I think we should stay up,” said Stone, who has 17 wickets so far. “It is a friendly club and I get on with the people there really well – they made me feel very welcome right from the start.
“I believe that St Giles, from the history that I’ve heard, like Nick Knight [the former England opener] having started there, used to be a really big cricketing force in Cambridge, like Granta and Burwell are now.
“And we’re aspiring to get back to that position. The main aim for the club at the minute is for the first team to stay where we are and for the second team to get promoted through the leagues so that it’s not quite so much of a drop.
“It’s definitely a club on the up, we’ve just got to try to keep the momentum and keep people interested.”