SOMERSET'S Max Waller retired from cricket last season after a 15-year career during which he became the county’s leading T20 bowler with138 wickets at an average of 24.44.

In recognition of his contribution to the club on and off the field Somerset have awarded the 34-year-old leg spinner a testimonial, write Richard Walsh.

He said: “I’m delighted and very proud to be awarded a testimonial by Somerset, the club where I have been a very long time and played all of my cricket. Hopefully 2023 will be an exciting and fun year to look forward to.

“I love playing cricket in front of a crowd and Somerset fans are the best in the country. There is no doubt about that in my mind.

"There is no better feeling than taking a wicket or a catch in the outfield at Taunton and being so close to the crowd.You can’t help but become emotional.

“I always felt like I had a good rapport with the fans and I think they have appreciated the effort and the enjoyment that I have played with and hope that they will keep on supporting me through this coming year.”

Max's highlights have been finals days and playing in the T20 Champions League against some of the best players in the world.

He added: "I’d always wanted to play first class cricket growing up so my championship debut in the victory over Sussex at Hove is also a special memory.

"Playing first class cricket is what I wanted to do and Justin Langer who was the captain back then and Marcus Trescothick were two of the guys I looked up to when I was growing up, so to be playing in the same team when I was 19 or 20 so early in my career was pretty special.

"But I guess that any of the T20 or one-day games in front of a full house at Taunton would also be memorable- and there were so many of them.

"The atmosphere was always fantastic here especially in those local derby matches- they are special memories and things that I will always hold onto.”

A special moment was a master class Max had with Shane Warne on Sky Sports.

“We got to spend some time with the great man, who is sadly not with us anymore," said Max. "It was fantastic to chat with him- I just wish I’d written down some of those memories and the things that we spoke about.

“To have had the chance to be there and bowl out in the middle with one of the greats of the game and somebody who I very much looked up to as a youngster was incredible.”

Max hopes to get back into the professional game as a coach and is already doing some work with the Western Storm Women’s side and working alongside Alex Barrow who is running the cricket at Exeter University and helping the next generation on the Somerset Academy.

Max played youth cricket for Somerset and later spent a few months in Australia, funded by working in the bar of a golf club.

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On returning to Somerset, he got to bowl at players such as Trescothick and Langer, along with Cameron White and Ian Blackwell in the nets.

After a few second team games, he was asked to sign a contract with the county.

He said: "I guess that I created the opportunities for myself mostly. It wasn’t handed to me by any means I had to go out and find it for myself.”

Max added: "I didn’t go into cricket wanting to be a T20 specialist. I wanted to play all formats. I looked up to Shane Warne who was fantastic in the longest form of the game which is what I wanted to do.

“T20 came around and I had success early on in that and didn’t have as much success in the four-day game. Back then there were very good pitches in the championship making it difficult bowling spin on a flat pitches.

“I didn’t get many opportunities over the next few years with overseas spinners like Murali Kartik, Ajantha Mendis, Piyush Chawla and Abdur Rehman who were all brilliant. Then after that Jack Leach and Dom Bess did fantastically well and I didn’t get much chance in the four-day game.

“I am still proud to have had a career playing the T20 format at a very difficult art within the game. It’s not easy especially playing at small grounds like Taunton.”

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