“It’s a very simple answer. I really want to play for England. Zimbabwe was great for me, I’m very thankful for all my coaches and people that worked with me there but I have really committed to wanting to play for England for quite some time now. That is the route I am committing to and working towards.”
Somerset's Eddie Byrom knows exactly what he wants. In 2015, he moved to England in search of a professional cricket career. Before the 2017 season was out, he was opening alongside Somerset and England great Marcus Trescothick. In 2019, after an explosive debut T20 blast campaign he had earned a contract for the inaugural season of The Hundred. It’s been quite the five years and he’s just getting started.
He speaks fondly of his country of birth but admits he knew that if he were to fulfill his ambition, he had to make a huge decision. “Growing up in Zimbabwe was really interesting, Cricket wise it was great, such a sunny country. I really enjoyed starting out my cricket there but it got to a stage where I didn’t really see myself going professional, so I didn’t really want to stay there for too long and I made the move to Somerset.”
After initially moving to Kings College on a cricket scholarship, Byrom graduated the Somerset academy in 2016. He then broke into the Somerset first team for the County Championship, making his debut in June 2017 away at Hampshire in a day-night game. He impressed, scoring 43 of his team's 147 in the first innings. This would be the first in a run of starts, frequently passing 30 but only with a high score of 56 in the final game of the season against Middlesex at Taunton.
That winter, he returned to Zimbabwe to join the new franchise, Rising Stars, based in Harare. He speaks fondly of his time. “It was really good. Before I went out there I was deliberating where I should go play cricket that winter, maybe back to New Zealand where I’d played before, but an opportunity came about where I could go back there and play first-class cricket which I thought would be a good opportunity to get some more games under my belt.
“I really enjoyed it, everyone was under the age of 23, it was all players trying to make their way in the game that were promising players. It was a good group to work with and our coach was an ex-international player (Zimbabwe's Stuart Matsikenyeri) so I really enjoyed it out there, I felt that I got a huge amount from it.”
He performed well too, scoring his maiden first-class century in the teams only win, a 327-ball 152 in a 268 run victory against the Matabeleland Tuskers. Unfortunately, due to ongoing financial issues within Zimbabwe Cricket, the franchise was disbanded in October 2018.
In 2018, Byrom again showed signs of promise, with two 50s in eight championship games. Up to this point, Byrom had not featured in any short format cricket, but in the 2019 season that was all to change.
After scoring his maiden first-class century for Somerset, against Cardiff MCCU in March of 2018, scoring 115 not out in the team's second innings of 345 for 9 declared. He scored this at the unusual position of number six and after being dropped after one game of the 2019 season, I asked him where his favoured position was heading into the future and with a potential gap opening following Trescothick's retirement. The answer was comprehensive.
“I definitely want to open the batting, I’ve made that clear to everyone that going forward that is what I really want to do," he explained. "When I have played second team cricket and when I started out playing in the first team that’s what I’ve done. It’s a tough job but not many people want to do it and for some reason I really want to. I prefer opening the batting to batting anywhere else. I quite enjoy it. Going forward I’ll happily slot in anywhere that a slot is available within the team but preferably I’d like that to be at the top of the order.”
At the start of August 2019, Byrom was drafted into the middle order of Somerset's exciting T20 blast side. To say he took his chance would be an understatement. He bludgeoned 54 not out against Surrey on debut and scored 185 runs in his nine games at an astonishing strike rate of nearly 197. “I got given a lot of freedom in the T20 last year, that was my role to go out there and be free and be attacking, that’s the brand of cricket that we were encouraged to play.”
This form led to a contract in The Hundred with the Manchester Originals, and Byrom has high hopes for franchise cricket in the future. “I’d love to play franchise cricket, being exposed to new environments, and learning from new people can only make you a better player.
Eddie Byrom has now established himself in all forms
“A great thing about cricket is that you get to travel to some pretty incredible places. Being able to do that and see different parts of the world, different cultures and be doing your job at the same time is really great If I can push my case for franchise tournaments around the world then that would be great.”
Byrom was rewarded with a new contract and spent the winter of 2019 playing for Fremantle Cricket Club in Perth, Australia following in the footsteps of Somerset captain Tom Abell and enjoyed success, winning the local T20 competition at the WACA. He returned to England, ready to push his case with Somerset, only to be hit with a global pandemic and a suspended season.
“I’ve been staying with my teammate George Bartlett, It was a bit of a shock to the system when cricket didn’t get going so we weren’t quite sure what to do with ourselves," he said. "We are all very excited now to start training again and we’ve got through lockdown ok with a lot of gym work and running work so we’re pretty fit and firing for when the season does get going hopefully at the beginning of August.”
He is eager to get going and making significant contributions for the county. “I felt like I was back into the swing of things pretty quick which was a relief, to be honest. Being in lockdown and not really being able to see your friends or family has been one of the toughest aspects so being able to see my teammates at a distance has been really refreshing.
“Hopefully I can establish myself in any team in any format that we do play this year, If i can do that I think I’m at the point now that I feel I’m good enough and I really want to be contributing to wins and not just be a part of the team, I really feel I need to be making valuable contributions and winning games for the team so that’s definitely something to achieve now."
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