By Richard Edwards
Zak Chappell has been honing a smooth bowling over the past nine months but when The Cricket Paper catches up with the Leicestershire paceman, his skin has followed suit.
“My girlfriend’s little sister is studying health and beauty so I went for a facial this morning,” he says, laughing. “She had an assessment so I said I would help out. It was my first one but I’m feeling good!”
It’s not the run-of-the-mill morning for an aspiring fast bowler but Chappell can be forgiven for enjoying a bit of downtime. As he and his Leicestershire team-mates enjoyed a relaxed evening out to celebrate their six wicket win over Northants on Monday, Chappell could look back on an immensely promising first Championship runout this season.
A maiden five-wicket haul in a win which has put Leicestershire second in Division Two means spirits are high at Grace Road. For a team that couldn’t buy a win for almost three years, these are heady times.
For the returning Chappell – who spent part of this winter working with the ECB’s pace programme – the hard work that has gone into his bowling in recent seasons finally appears to be paying off. And the influence of Paul Nixon, the county’s newly appointed coach, is clearly having an impact.
“The boys have been going well this year, Nico (Nixon) has been really good, really positive,” he says.
“He has been a breath of fresh air, if I’m honest. Everything was quite intense before, it’s nice to just enjoy your cricket again. I think players are at their best if they’re happy and that’s definitely the case at the minute.
“Everyone is enjoying each other’s success and there’s a really nice culture developing.
“The lads are in a pretty good place. It’s nice to be back and contributing after a few injuries.
“ I bowled with nice pace at Northants, it was good fun. The wicket was quite slow but a few got through.”
The key for Leicestershire and for Chappell – who missed the opening rounds of Championship matches back in April and early May – is to maintain the progress and momentum that the county have built in the four-day game so far this season.
Only Warwickshire sit ahead of them going in the latest games and although promotion remains a long-shot, Chappell sees no reason why the county should settle for anything less.
“We’re disappointed with the way the white ball cricket went in the Royal London but we’ve learnt some lessons and I think we’ll come back strongly in the T20,” he says. “But it’s nice to be going better in the Championship – I think the boys are equally driven to do well in both formats.
“Obviously the red ball was difficult in the first few months of the season, particularly for the batsmen but there’s no reason why we can’t (target promotion). We’re very tight knit as a squad, we’re all good mates. If everyone does their role then I think we can keep up the pressure at the top of the table.”
Chappell’s first appearance of the season was certainly blemish free. Just like his face post-facial.