By James Martland
2016 has been an exciting year for Durham University student Charlie MacDonell. The 21 year old’s second season with Durham MCCU turned out to be a highly profitable one, enabling him to fulfil his dream of playing county cricket, signing for Derbyshire CCC. However, there is still more to come, with MacDonell striving to develop himself even further and become a pivotal player for his new team.
A superb hundred during 2015 pre-season against Warwickshire at Edgbaston was a perfect start to his Durham MCCU career and perhaps gave MacDonell the confidence boost he needed. Despite not counting as a first class game, MacDonnell doesn’t underestimate the importance of this knock, calling it the ‘best moment of his career so far’.
“It showed me that I was actually capable of what I had hoped. It made me believe that, if I can see it in my head and take the right action to make it happen, then anything is possible.”
More good performances followed and in March of this year, the 21 year-old came very close to a maiden first-class hundred. MacDonell batted beautifully for four hours before being left stranded after a mid-pitch mix up with partner Will Jenkins and being run out for 91. MacDonell still awaits his maiden first class ton, but it is surely just a matter of time. In fact, it was another hundred in a non-first class game which allowed him to make that step up to the county game. A century from 193 balls against a full strength Derbyshire CCC side led to a move there.
After a handful of good performances with Derbyshire’s 2nd XI, which included a score of 84 against Northants 2nd XI, MacDonell made his bow for the first team in a one-day game against Sri Lanka A. A score of 19 may have disappointed him, but after a few more good knocks for the 2nd XI, MacDonell was soon able to accomplish his dream of playing in the County Championship, stepping out against Essex on 13th August. Although in a losing cause as Derbyshire were bundled out cheaply twice by eventual champions Essex, MacDonell’s second innings unbeaten 35 demonstrated an ability to dig in and grind out runs. MacDonell admits that, whilst not the best start as a team, making his debut was a great personal moment for him.
“I felt like I was beginning to make progress. One of my goals for the season was to make my Championship debut by August. I was very grateful that Derbyshire gave me the opportunity. In the second innings I was more relaxed and confident and felt that if I had the chance to bat, I would have got a big score.”
MacDonell’s story is evidence that performing well for the university can lead to bigger and better things. Nevertheless, he makes it clear that, despite county cricket being a step up, he owes much to both the university coaches and the system itself.
“I’ve loved every minute of playing for Durham University,” MacDonell states.
“The training setup is very professional and there are some very good players around the circuit. Playing for the university has probably been the two most valuable years of my cricket career so far. It gave me a pathway through to county cricket and I’ve been able to play with some top players and coaches. I’d say as a team, there is a big step up for the universities playing against counties, but as an individual I always had in my mind I would make the step up when I did, so it didn’t feel like much of a difference. Paul Grayson (Head coach of Durham University) and Gareth Breese (Assistant coach) helped me the most with my transition to county cricket.”
MacDonell comes across as someone who is highly driven and ambitious. He aims to keep improving and will certainly get much more game time next summer with Derbyshire, as well as a full winter programme to develop his game. MacDonnell believes he will be one of Derbyshire’s main men next season, playing a pivotal role and having just signed a new one-year deal for the 2017 campaign, there is no reason to doubt his ambition.
Photograph: David Griffin