After three months out with a side strain injury, Instonians and Ireland fast bowler Nathan Smith will make his long-awaited return to action against Armagh in the Robinson Services Premier League on Saturday.
Smith was named in the inaugural Irish Test squad in May against Pakistan, but suffered his injury only a couple of days before the game in training, cruelly ruling him out of playing a part in the historic occasion.
The 23-year-old is now in a position to get back on the pitch, and says being limited to a watching role has been very tough.
“It’s been brutal to say the least,” he said.
“Just watching cricket time after time when you want to be out there is very hard. I’m not a calm watcher either! It has been a long road back for sure.”
Smith has been training with the Ireland Twenty20 squad, who have been involved in a three match series against Afghanistan which they currently trail 2-0, with the last game to be played on Friday before three One Day International’s at Stormont next week.
“It’s a good environment to be around, especially with the amount of cricket they are playing at the moment,” he added.
“You know you’re always going to get that professional training that you need to get back. There are always coaches around so you can get what you need done all the time.”
The Australian-born seamer has been increasing his training load in recent weeks, and believes he is now back to full fitness.
“I’m feeling strong at the moment.
“I’m back to full fitness and I’ve been bowling for the past few weeks now to get the overs in and make sure I’m ready for the match intensity.
“We can take the next step now and get a couple of games under my belt and hopefully put my hand up for the Interpro game at the end of the season.”
The worst fear for any injured sportsman upon their return is to pick up another one after so long out, and although he is always aware of it, Smith is looking to just focus on the task at hand.
“It’s always in the back of your mind.
“Every time I’m bowling I am thinking about it. I feel strong enough now and have enough overs under my belt to believe that I’m not going to re-injure myself and I can just focus on the cricket at hand.”
He will return to Australia during the off-season to play cricket in the Southern Hemisphere, but before that faces two league games and the possibility of rounding out the season with the Northern Knights.
Instonians have had a torrid time with injuries throughout the 2018 campaign which has stopped them competing for the major trophies, but Smith sees the positives that the challenges have brought.
“We came into the season looking to win the league and win some cups, but with us all being out, we have seen the kids coming through.”
“In particular, the last couple of weeks and we had a good win against Muckamore. That is good to watch and see the success of our youth programme coming through.
“In that way, it has been successful in growing the club, but in another way you want to win trophies, so that has been disappointing.
“Injuries are a part of sport and you just have to get on with it at the end of the day.”