BALLINA’S IMPORTS: Ben Collins (left) and Aaron Jeal have joined the LJ Hooker League cricket team Ballina Bears from England.
BALLINA’S IMPORTS: Ben Collins (left) and Aaron Jeal have joined the LJ Hooker League cricket team Ballina Bears from England. Dave Kirkpatrick

Barmy Bears building bridges

WITH memories of the Aussies losing the Ashes still fresh in many peoples' minds, it's a good time to be an Englishman in Ballina.

Better still, if you are two English cricketers in Ballina.

LJ Hooker League premiers Ballina Bears have imported two English upstarts to play for them this summer - opening batsman Aaron Jeal and fast bowler Ben Collins.

It's all part of a long-standing exchange program that has seen several local players visit the Old Dart and bring talented players back with them.

Collins found his feet, and his rhythm, in the opening round, taking 5-50 in the drawn match against Southern Districts.

“I opened up on Saturday and played really well, I was pleased with the way it was coming out,” Collins said.

“Most people have been saying that it is batsmen-friendly pitches, they are rock hard and you have to work for your wickets but, so far, I'm fairly happy with how I'm bowling and enjoying it as well.

“Obviously, on the pitches at home, you get a lot more movement and swing, whereas over here once the new ball gets old there is not a lot happening for you and you have to be patient and wear the batsmen down.”

After completing his playing duties with Sussex club Cuckfield in the English Premier League, Collins said the opportunity to travel, play cricket in Australia and go to the beach in his spare time, was too good to pass up.

The move was made even sweeter when England cleaned up the Australians in the recent Ashes series.

“There have been a few comments flying around the change rooms but it would have been a lot worse if we had lost,” Collins said.

“But we have been giving it out a bit because it doesn't happen too often for us Poms.”

Nervous start

Jeal admitted he was 'nervous' before playing his first knock for the Bears, where he was dismissed leg-before-wicket after making 13 runs.

But the opener, who plays for Roffey in Sussex, reckons he'll get better with that experience out of the way.

“A lot of people have said that they have got batter-friendly decks but it doesn't matter when you face the new ball it is still going to nip around a bit,” Jeal said.

“I was a bit disappointed with the start, I just had some nerves creep in, but that was really the first time that I'd met all the boys because I only arrived a week previous to the game.

“I only really met all the boys before the game, and having to go out and open the batting, I was fairly nervous but once you get off the mark all those seem to go.”

While Jeal doesn't feel any added pressure to succeed because the Bears are the reigning premiers, he'd still like to ensure the club goes back-to-back

“The boys' main objective is to win as many trophies as you can, it's always good to win, but I just want to get as many runs as I can and help the boys win,” he said.

“There's probably more pressure just coming in and showing the boys what we can do rather than winning the comp itself.”

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