When the County Championship fixtures for 2013 were announced last November, Worcestershire’s visit to The Ageas Bowl tomorrow was indelibly ringed in Chris Russell’s diary.
Russell, 24, who hails from Wroxall on the Isle of Wight, hopes to be spearheading the Pears attack in the four-day LV= County Championship Division 2 against Hampshire.
And he’d love Danny Briggs and David Griffiths to be in the Hampshire line-up.
“Danny and I are from the same village and used to play lamp-post cricket against each other after school,” Russell laughed.
If he is selected to make a third successive Championship appearance of the season, it will be the first time Russell has played a major game at The Ageas Bowl.
“I’ve played junior cricket there, but never a senior game, so to play in the Worcestershire-Hampshire game would be fantastic, especially if Danny and Griff, my two mates from the Island, were to play as well.”
Russell is arguably the least known of the players to have emerged off the Isle of Wight’s cricketing conveyor belt.
Unlike Briggs and Griffiths, Russell didn’t play his county youth cricket for Hampshire.
Instead, he cut his teeth in the lower echelons of the ECB junior county pyramid with the Isle of Wight Cricket Board.
But his pace bowling potential didn’t escape the eagle-eyed Ross Edwards, the IWCB’s Academy Manager at the time.
Russell played only one Southern Electric Premier League match for Ventnor before making his West Midlands move.
“Ross took me up to Worcester in 2008 and I went on to have two successful seasons with Wolverhampton in the Birmingham & District Premier League, taking 60 wickets in my first two seasons there,” he recalled.
But, five years after swapping his native Wroxall for the West Midlands, Russell has begun to make an impact on the county circuit.
He made his full county debut against Pakistan in 2010, taking the wicket of Yasir Hameed before rain washed out the two-day game at New Road.
Russell enjoyed success in Second XI Championship cricket last summer and celebrated his new Worcestershire deal with a six-wicket haul against South Africa at New Road last July.
He dismissed Albie Morkel in both innings, and also took the wickets of Jacques Rudolph, Alviro Petersen, JP Duminy, and Dale Steyn.
Russell went on to play in Worcestershire’s last six County Championship matches of the season, taking 17 more wickets, including a best 4-43 return against eventual champions Warwickshire at Edgbaston.
He spent a hugely successful winter season in Cape Town, capturing over 45 wickets for Bellville in the demanding Western Province League.
But wickets have been harder to come by so far this season, with Russell returning 1-96 in Worcestershire’s rain wrecked opening match against Lancashire at Old Trafford.
That was followed by figures of 2-74 as Worcestershire crashed to a ten-wicket defeat against Glamorgan at Cardiff’s SWALEC Stadium.
But, if he is selected, tomorrow will be that little bit special for Russell.
“It’s kind of a home match for me and if I do play, a few friends have promised to come across from the Island,” he smiled.
“Hampshire are a good side, with a lot of quality players and I want to be out there bowling at them.”