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Ned looks back fondly on his first year

2021 was a memorable year for many reasons.

It is a year that Ned Leonard in particular will remember fondly because it was his first as a professional cricketer.

We spoke with the 19-year-old pace-man recently to discuss his first full season.

“I’ve always dreamed about playing cricket as a career and I think it’s gone quite well so far,” he said when reflecting upon the last 12 months. “It’s been everything that I’d dreamed of so far and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

How did he feel when he walked into the Somerset dressing room as a professional for the first time?

“There are some big names in the squad and lots of them that I’ve watched from the stands over the last few years, but everyone was really welcoming. I get along well with everyone, and it’s been really good to be able to work alongside those guys and to learn from them as well. Because the majority of the squad were here for the winter due to Covid it meant that I got to know everyone really quickly and hopefully I can take what I’ve learned from them and add it to my game.

“Everyone is so helpful. We’ve got Abes, who’s brilliant. He really looks after everyone and goes out of his way to help, but so does everyone else in the squad.”

What was it like to walk out to represent Somerset in front of a crowd?

“It was really special,” he explained. “Having a crowd in the ground makes a massive difference and I loved every minute of it. I’ve been watching cricket in the crowd since I was about five, so to be out there doing it for Somerset was unbelievable because the crowds we get are amazing.”

Ned made his full Somerset debut in the abandoned Royal London Cup clash against Notts Outlaws at Welbeck. Was he nervous when he pulled the shirt on for the first time?

“I was more excited than nervous,” he explained. “It’s what I’ve wanted to do from such a young age. I was so excited because I just love cricket. The best piece of advice I received was about remaining calm, backing my skills and enjoying myself.

“My first game at Taunton was really special too. That was such an amazing experience. The crowd just got louder with every Leicestershire wicket that fell. The atmosphere was amazing and to see the Georges (Bartlett and Thomas) score their runs in the way that they did was pretty special as well.”

How did it feel when he took his first wicket?

“That was really special,” he said. “I felt pure elation. It was like a massive weight was taken off my shoulders because you really want to get that first wicket. To be able to do that at Taunton was just amazing.”

Ned went on to make his First Class debut in the home LV= Insurance County Championship match against Lancashire.

“That felt like a bit of a dream if I’m honest,” he said. “I love red-ball cricket and that day was so special. It was amazing and an absolute dream come true.”

Ned was called into the squad for the Lancashire game as a late injury replacement for Josh Davey. How did he find out that he was going to make his first red-ball start for the County?

“I wasn’t in the original squad and I got a call from Jason Kerr that morning saying that I was going to make my Championship debut and needed to get to the ground. I quickly phoned my parents who got in the car and drove down. It’s a bit of a blur to be honest. I got up, got the call, got to the ground, bowled a few balls and then bowled the second over of the day. That was pretty special. I couldn’t have asked for it any other way I don’t think. I certainly don’t think that I would have been able to sleep if I’d known before.”

Ned’s maiden First Class wicket, that of George Balderson, was also particularly special, as he explained.

“I’ve played with George at under 19 level, and he actually captained us as well. It’s always nice to get someone you’ve played with out. I’m never going to forget that. I’ve got a nice photo of it with me celebrating and him in the background. It was such a special feeling and it felt like years of hard work had paid off in that moment.”

What are Ned’s plans for the winter?

“I’m going to be in Taunton working on as many things as I can and getting as fit and strong as possible. I’m going to keep on learning from everyone as much as I can in order to improve all parts of my game and try and take things to the next level.

“I’m still young and I’m still learning and I’m going to carry on working hard to make sure that I get better. Hopefully, opportunities will come along and when they do I want to make my mark.

“The goal is to play as much First XI cricket as possible and make as much of my opportunities as I can.”

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