Northampton cricketer Mick Allen is determined to make the most of a chance of a lifetime when he flies out to represent England in the Over-70s Ashes in Australia - and grab a slice of sporting glory while he’s there!
The Saints and Northants Over-60s spin bowler is in the 16-man squad that is setting off Down Under on Wednesday, determined to restore English cricket’s pride after the first team’s humbling 4-0 defeat earlier in the winter.
Joe Root and his team had no answer to the Aussies in the main event, but Allen is hoping that he and his new team-mates will be up to the task over the course of five ‘Tests’, which will be staged as one-day internationals.
England travel to Australia as the reigning champions as they enjoyed a 2-1 series win the last time the nations met in England two years ago, but this will be Allen’s first experience as he only qualified by turning 70 last May - making him the youngest member of the touring party.
That could mean a bit of extra workload for Allen, who still plays Saturday cricket for Saints, the team he has represented since he w as a boy.
“A couple of blokes have had to drop out, so the squad is down to 16 which means more work and plenty of game time,” said Allen.
“Hopefully I won’t have to play in all 10 games on the tour, but it depends on fitness I suppose, and if anybody gets sunstroke or something!
“But I am the youngest and might be running around the outfield a lot!”
Allen has trained with his new team-mates in net sessions at Loughborough, and has fitted in well.
“Everybody had a 20-minute bat, and the bowlers bowled at them, so we probably had an hour bowling,” he said.
“It took longer to get the kit sorted out, and the jackets sorted and team picture and things like that!
“The rest of the squad are fine though, and I have no problems with anybody.”
The team haven’t looked at the strengths and weaknesses of their hosts, with Allen adding: “I’m not bothered about what Australia are like - there is no point worrying about the opposition.”
Fitness wise, Allen is very relaxed about how he will cope with what an Australian tour entails.
There were suggestions of the players doing some gym-work to prepare themselves, but Allen says he has been never been to gym in his life, and isn’t going to start now!
“The captain suggested we go to a gym, or go to a sauna or something like that, to get used to the heat,” he said.
“But I didn’t do that, I have been to the West Indies before and had no trouble with the the heat there, so I am just hoping it will all go well when we get there.
“I think it will be a bit cooler than it is at the moment there.”
Northampton-born Allen, who first started playing for Saints in 1961, is now just looking forward to getting started on a trip that has been made possible by the generosity of many sponsors.
The tour had to be self-funded by the players, and donations to a Just Giving page set up by his daughter Rovinj, as well as a comedy night and generous donations ensured Allen could travel.
“There have been a lot of people who have helped,” he said.
“There is FG Watts, O’Connor & Company where I used to work, Mick and Sheila White who have donated. Northants CCC have donated, Pete Teckman ran the comedy night for me at the Saints where we raised a lot of money.
“Wootton Primary School donated, and then there is everybody else who gave to the Just Giving page, which started it all when it was first publicised.
“I appreciate everything that everybody has done.
Allen will spend the first two weeks of the tour on his own, before he is joined for the final week by daughter Rovinj.
As well as the cricket, there are plenty of social activities arranged, including a trip to a vineyard and a wildlife park, as well as the chance to do some sight-seeing and relax.
“I am just going to go out there and anjoy it - or at least I’ll enjoy it until my daughter gets there and starts telling me what to do!
“It will be a proud moment for me, and her as well.”
England play their first warm-up game against a Western Australia XI in Perth on February 26, with the first Test against the Aussies on March 4 in Adelaide.
The final Test, and game 10 of the tour, is in Brisbane on March 17.
Feb 26: Western Australia XI, Perth
Feb 28: Western Australia, Perth
March 2: South Australia, Adelaide
March 4: Australia, Adelaide
March 5: South Australia Country XI, Mount Gambier
March 8: Australia, Geelong CC, Kardinia Park
March 11: Australia, Brisbane
March 12: Queensland Country (day/night game), Caloundra CC, Mantra Mooloolaba Beach
March 14: Australia, Maroochydore CC
March 17: Australia, Brisbane Premier Ground