It is Twenty20 finals day at Edgbaston on Saturday and, two years on from the stunning individual performance that resulted in him shooting to prominence, the Northamptonshire all-rounder David Willey is desperate to bring home one last piece of silverware for his boyhood club before he leaves.
Willey, who almost single-handedly won the 2013 final against Surrey after striking 60 from 27 balls as an opener before taking a hat-trick with the ball, has signed a three-year deal with Yorkshire, starting this winter – a move he believes can help fulfil his dream of playing Test cricket for England.
This high-profile switch has come about a year before his contract at the Division Two club Northants was due to end, with the reigning county champions paying a £50,000 “transfer fee” to secure the talented 25-year-old’s services early, amid interest from a host of Division One clubs.
While Willey, already capped by England in limited-overs cricket this summer and part of the one-day and Twenty20 squads to face Australia next week, is excited by this step in his career, he is focused on signing off from Northants duty by securing them the NatWest T20 Blast title.
“I owe the club a lot for the opportunities and support I have had over the years from a young boy to now,” said Willey, whose side face Birmingham Bears in the first semi-final. “So there would be no better thing than for me than to play a pivotal role in winning them some silverware.”
Willey has arguably played the innings of the tournament this summer, with his 40-ball century guiding Northants to a seven-wicket win over Sussex in their quarter-final at Hove two weeks ago. The left-hander, who is attracting interest from teams in Australia’s Big Bash League, says his method is simple: “I stand still at the crease, hit into my areas and take the odd calculated risk.”
Leaving the club who gave him his first-class debut in 2009 to sign for Yorkshire proved a wrench but the lure of pulling on the whites for England, as well as domestic success, is the motivation. He believes Division One cricket can make his Test dream happen and insists money was never the reason.
“There was speculation about my future over the past two years but it never felt like the time was right – and I still had more to do at Northants,” he says. “This year it felt right but it was still a difficult decision. There’s been a lot of speculation about it being for financial reasons but I can categorically state that is not the case.
“I am moving for cricketing reasons. I want to play Test cricket and I feel I need to be in Division One to do that. There is a massive gulf between the two divisions and this move to Yorkshire will help that. We will see. There is no doubt I need to improve for that to happen.”
In first-class cricket, the Yorkshire head coach, Jason Gillespie, intends to make Willey the apprentice to the former England seamer Ryan Sidebottom, who, while still going strong with 29 championship wickets at 18 this season, turns 38 in January and enters the final year of his contract.
“Sidebottom has achieved some great things, he is a fellow left-armer and hopefully I can learn from him,” says Willey. “I am good friends with Jack Brooks [Yorkshire’s former Northants seamer] and he spoke very highly of Gillespie, too. When you think of everything he has achieved in the game, to work under him will be fantastic.
“Test cricket is still the pinnacle and I would like nothing more than to play in an Ashes series. I am fully aware a move won’t just make that happen, I have got a lot to do myself to even get my name mentioned in that discussion but you cannot set your goals low.”
For now, though, the focus is finals day, with either Lancashire or Hampshire lying in wait should Northants overcome the defending champions on their home patch. “Two years ago we went in as underdogs and walked away as champions,” says Willey. “It’s the same this year except we have that experience, so we shouldn’t be fazed. Anything can happen and, from an individual perspective, it would be lovely to finish that way, too.”