Henry Cooper - the New Zealand cricketer - gets acclimatised to Burbage & Easton Royal ways
The professional cricketer Henry Cooper is spending New Zealand's winter months playing with Burbage and Easton Royal Cricket Club (BERCC). This is the eighth season that the club has had a visiting professional from overseas playing with their first eleven and taking a central role in coaching the club's teams and their younger stalwarts.
And this is the fourth off-season that 25-year-old Henry Cooper has spent in England. The first three were in the north - the home of local professional cricket leagues. In 2015 and 2016 he played for Broad Oak in the Drakes Huddersfield Cricket League.
In 2016 he was named the Drakes Overseas Player of the Year. He scored 1,066 for Broad Oak - an average of 62.71, and picked up 21 wickets with his off-spin bowling. And in summer 2017 he joined Rochdale in the Lancashire League - making 889 runs in league games.
Rochdale asked him back for the current season: "I had to say no - I wasn't going to come back at all. But my agent found a deal that just fitted right." And here he is living in Marlborough as a guest of one of the BERCC players - and enjoying the south of England.
He told marlborough.news: "The cricket here's very different to back home. We play to different rules and more two, three and four day games. Here it's one-day games on Saturdays with some mid-week games - one-day games in New Zealand are played with a white ball and coloured team strips."
At home in New Zealand he has been a professional player for a season and a half - making his first-class debut for Northern Districts in November 2016 in the Plunket Shield league - roughly the equivalent of our senior county sides. Northern Districts covers the 'top half of North Island - minus Auckland'.However, he says coming to England has been a bonus for him: "it's enabled me to evolve and improve my game. Training's one thing, but you can't substitute for game time."
In March, in a Plunket Shield match against Canterbury, Henry Cooper and team captain Daniel Flynn set a new club record for an opening stand. Henry made 136 off 189 balls (including 16 fours and five sixes) and Daniel made 157 off 177 balls - their side making 409 for four declared. Unfortunately the four-day match was drawn after disruption by rain.
Henry Cooper is enjoying his time with BERCC: "So far the weather's been pretty good - not missed a game." In fact the first eleven have won all four games since he joined them - just dropping their opening game, when he was caught up in visa delays.
Over the recent Bank Holiday weekend he went back up to Lancashire to meet up with old friends and former colleagues and to play in a charity match: "It was good fun".
He is also having a taste of 'social cricket' playing some games with the Gloucestershire Gipsies Cricket Club. "You don't get anything like that in New Zealand. The Gipsies play 'timed cricket' - it's all on time not overs and on declarations - it's fun. I'm a pretty competitive bloke - and sometimes I need to relax a bit and play some social cricket."
In between times he looks forward to golf at Marlborough Golf Club: "I brought my clubs over - I play a lot of golf!"
"All in all I'm loving it here so far. Hopefully we can push for promotion for next year."
After last season's promotion, BERCC play in the 'Premier 2 Glos/Wilts' division of the West of England Premier Cricket League. They field four senior teams and under-11 and under-15 teams. And Henry Cooper is closely involved in evening coaching - for all ages.
At present (June 6) the BERCC first eleven are in third place in their league.
Henry's father, Barry Cooper, was a legendary player for Northern Districts in the 80s and 90s: "It was a strong time for New Zealand cricket - he was unlucky not to play for his country."
"He completely recommended my coming over here. And he was so right. I find it invaluable for my cricket. He's been fabulous."
"We can talk cricket and he can guide me in the right direction. You need people in your life like that."