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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Matthew Cooper

Laurie Evans lifts lid on life as a T20 star and the dilemmas facing England hopefuls

Surrey star Laurie Evans is one of the best uncapped T20 batters in England, having struck a total of 4,950 runs in 195 innings.

In fact, only two other players who have not played international cricket have scored more than him - Cameron Delport and Rikki Wessels. Remarkably, though, Evans did not become a regular on the T20 franchise circuit until after his 30th birthday.

He had always been a talented white-ball batter, having been named player of the match in the final of the 2014 T20 Blast after his half-century helped Warwickshire win the tournament, but it took a move to Sussex and the backing of captain Luke Wright to truly unlock Evans' full potential.

He told Mirror Sport : "I was at Warwickshire batting in the middle order at five or six and a good year for me would be finishing off the innings in four games - either win a game or get us to an above-par score.

"But ultimately I knew that if I wanted to move my game forward and play some franchise cricket I would have to get more of an opportunity up the order, so I moved to Sussex where Luke Wright decided to bat me at number three.

"That year [2018] I topped the run scoring in the Blast and from there I started to pick up franchise opportunities. Sometimes you just need to give yourself more of an opportunity to do well, that's what I did moving to Sussex and the rest has been history. Ever since I've found myself very busy in the winter months!"

Evans has now played in franchise competitions all over the world, including the Caribbean Premier League, the Big Bash, the Pakistan Super League and the short-lived Afghanistan Premier League. And he believes it is important that young English players take advantage of opportunities to play abroad and improve their game.

"When you go away and play in these different environments and with different people, you've got to open yourself up to learning new things," he explained. "You have to see it as an opportunity to get better and learn stuff off other people and that's part of why franchise cricket is so enjoyable.

"You can go and play with guys you never would otherwise and you have to be open to those opportunities. When you go to the subcontinent or the Caribbean, it's all about playing spin and you learn stuff talking to people and putting yourself in match situations.

It took a move to Sussex and the backing of captain Luke Wright to kickstart Evans' career as a T20 globetrotter (Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

"Sometimes you get them wrong and you learn from that. The franchise world is still quite a new environment for a lot of English cricketers, but a lot of guys are now picking up gigs and you're seeing the benefits in the Blast and the England side."

At the start of the year, Evans signed a white-ball only contract with Surrey and believes "it's the way the game's moving now". At the age of 34, he made the decision with his family in mind and safe in the knowledge that he was never "going to play Test cricket or anything like that".

However, younger English cricketers could be tempted to turn their back on red-ball cricket altogether due to the riches on offer. "As you get older, the demands of the game are bigger than they've ever been, certainly in the winter," Evans added.

"You spend half of your time away from home and, with a young family, I just felt it was the right decision for me to not play red-ball cricket anymore. That didn't mean that I didn't enjoy red-ball cricket at all, it just meant that it wasn't my main focus moving forward.

He agreed a white-ball only deal with Surrey at the start of the year (Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for Surrey CCC)

"I'm not going to play Test cricket or anything like that, so it gives more of an opportunity for young Surrey players to move up and play first-team cricket. There was a lot that went into the decision, but it's the way the game's moving now and I think you'll see more people start to specialise.

"It's been an exciting time in English white-ball cricket, but it's also thrown up problems for guys in red-ball cricket because the amount of money you can earn is obviously tempting." This winter, Evans helped the Perth Scorchers win the Big Bash, scoring a match-winning 76 in the final as his side defeated the Sydney Sixers by 79 runs.

However, he admits it was both a "tough" and "bizarre" experience spending almost three months away from home over Christmas and New Year due to Australia's strict coronavirus rules. The Scorchers played just one game in Perth due to Western Australia's hard border and saw several key players miss matches due to positive tests.

"It was tough," he said. "I'd played in Perth a few years before and got to know a few of the guys like Ashton Agar and AJ Tye so I had an affiliation, but when I found out they wanted me I was over the moon.

Evans starred for the Perth Scorchers in the Big Bash final earlier this year, smashing 76 not out from just 41 balls (AAP Image/Joel Carrett)

"When I arrived I instantly felt at home and we had a really good team and went on a run, whilst also being away from Perth the whole time. It was bizarre, I spent maybe one night in Perth and that was it.

"We played the first game, left and never went back so it was just bizarre to not experience Australia. It's such an amazing country and all we could do was play golf really.

"Obviously my family couldn't come out either as Covid meant they couldn't get a Visa, so I was away from home for [around] three months with a young family. It was not easy, but hopefully we can now start to enjoy these beautiful places again."

Evans is now hoping to win the T20 Blast with Surrey this year, before turning his attention to The Hundred. He represented Oval Invincibles last year as their tenth pick but opted not to stay with the franchise and re-entered the draft, where he was a top pick for Manchester Originals, landing a £125,000 deal alongside West Indies star Andre Russell.

"First and foremost, the players absolutely love playing in it," he said of the tournament. "The crowd that turned up seemed to have a blast and it was amazing to see. It felt like a different atmosphere to the Blast and it felt like people were really engaged with what was going on.

"Initially a lot of people find cricket quite boring, but I think the way The Hundred has provided a few quirks has shown how exciting it can be. The tournament was a huge success and I think it'll just get bigger and bigger.

"[Manchester Originals coach] Simon Katich was part of the reason why I ended up at the Scorchers and he was messaging me before the draft saying 'We really want you to come and play in Manchester and you'll bat a bit higher up the order'. And when someone like that puts their faith in you, I found it hard to ignore.

"It's a new challenge and something I'm looking forward to and it was a pretty easy decision in the end. I loved my time at the Oval as well, playing in front of my home city and with a lot of guys I know, but it's a great tournament to be part of and I'm just lucky to be involved."

Evans is an ambassador for Step One (Step One Underwear)

Evans was speaking to Mirror Sport on behalf of underwear brand Step One. "Step One are a great brand to work with, and what's important for me are their values," he said.

"The underwear they offer is the best I've ever worn. They're extremely comfortable, and fits all body types, and there is a real emphasis on body positivity and sustainability."

Laurie Evans is an ambassador for Step One, the sustainable and ethical underwear brand, created to offer unbelievable comfort for men and women inclusive for all body shapes and sizes.

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