Powerhouse batsman Ben O'Connell hits a six for the Knight Riders during the Darling Downs Bush Bash League T20 cricket competition last year. Picture: Kevin Farmer
Powerhouse batsman Ben O'Connell hits a six for the Knight Riders during the Darling Downs Bush Bash League T20 cricket competition last year. Picture: Kevin Farmer

Well-travelled Ben back: Provides power boost for team

HAVING scored more than 7700 runs and taken 260 plus wickets in South East Queensland cricket competitions, Ben O'Connell is a player any team would welcome back.

Even though he's not planning to do much bowling in the near future, the powerhouse top three batsman is keen to make a valuable contribution.

He returned to the Laidley first grade side in recent weeks after a successful two-year stint with Broadbeach Robina in the stronger 12-team Gold Coast competition.

O'Connell enjoyed sharing in two premiership successes with a group of representative level mates.

However, the demands of driving from Ipswich to the Gold Coast to play were too much for the West Moreton Anglican College English and social science teacher, who is also Director of Rugby.

"It was becoming just a bit harder timewise to commit to that sort of travel and commitment,'' he said.

Laidley provided a welcome opportunity to have a hit again.

"I'm just trying to help out when I can and stay connected a bit,'' O'Connell said.

Preparing for the second day's play in the latest Cricket Ipswich match against his former club Centrals, O'Connell is 61 not out.

The left-handed opener guided the Blue Dogs to a handy 45 run lead after Laidley's bowling attack dismissed Centrals for just 81 at Bichel Oval last weekend.

For O'Connell, it was pleasing to post a decent score after feeling a bit rusty.

"Our plan was to bat the afternoon and try and minimise the damage,'' O'Connell, 34, said.

"For myself, I was just trying to get back with some timing and some time in the middle really because having time off, I hadn't really had much of a hit.''

Before rejoining Laidley a week earlier, his only cricket in recent months was with the Knight Riders in the Darling Downs Bush Bash League.

"It was a very exciting contest and very strong competition,'' he said.

In the latest game, Laidley finished day one at 6/127, giving themselves a chance to inflict a rare outright victory on the Kookaburras when the match resumes on Saturday.

Former Centrals all-rounder Ben O'Connell appeals for a wicket. Picture: Rob Williams
Former Centrals all-rounder Ben O'Connell appeals for a wicket. Picture: Rob Williams

However, O'Connell was showing plenty of respect to the team he previously captained to premiership success in 2017.

"They (Centrals) have got a fair few guys that I played with and know pretty well, and a couple of new faces,'' he said.

"We'll build a bit of a lead and push them back into bat and try and get some wickets for those valuable incentive points.''

Laidley was his junior club before helping Centrals secure a memorable grand final victory.

He was pleased to see an injection of new talent from players like Josh Reisenleiter, Shanley Neuendorf and Jared Adamski.

 

Accomplished batsman Ben O'Connell keeps a close eye on the ball. Picture: Rob Williams
Accomplished batsman Ben O'Connell keeps a close eye on the ball. Picture: Rob Williams

As for the rest of the Cricket Ipswich two-day season, O'Connell plans to assist Laidley when he can.

"I'm playing it by ear at the moment, just on a week-to-week thing at the moment,'' the former Queensland Country all-rounder said.

With his wife Millie serving as an assistant Ipswich Force under-21 men's basketball coach, O'Connell has to juggle his work, cricket and family commitments.

"My family is growing up and it's getting busy,'' he said.

His school duties at WestMAC also resumed last week with more students to return after the Australia Day holiday.

After two seasons commuting regularly to the coast, some time in the Ipswich region will be most welcome for one of the city's most accomplished cricketers and educators.

Just don't expect the left-arm orthodox spinner to be rolling the arm over too much, at least for the next few weeks.

"The bowling is a bit harder to come back from,'' he said. "When needed, I will bowl.''



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