Wicket-keeper batter Josh Blake has signed his first professional contract with Surrey.
The 23-year-old has been coaching for the Surrey Cricket Foundation (SCF) since 2018, working on their community programmes, and has been an important part in the delivery of Chance to Shine sessions in primary schools across the county.
Blake started playing for the Surrey Second XI in 2021 and has continued to play this year. This season, he has impressed with the bat averaging 58.8, with three fifties and a century in six games, and a top score of 188.
The Sutton Cricket Club player has had a long journey to securing a professional contract. Having started out playing cricket in his back garden with his dad, Blake regularly played above his age group for local side Sutton. He represented Surrey from Under 9s all the way to Under 15s where, by his own admission, he was not ready to continue playing at that level.
Determined to succeed in the game, Blake carried on playing for Sutton and in the winters of 2017 and 2018 he went out to work in Australia and played Sydney Shires cricket to continue to develop his game. He credits his time down under with having really helped him to improve his skills.
When Blake returned from Australia in 2018, he started working at the Surrey Cricket Foundation (SCF), working as a part time coach on their Chance to Shine programme. Chance to Shine is a national charity that delivers cricket coaching sessions in state schools and disadvantaged communities across the country.
The charity helps young people to develop not only their cricketing skills but also to develop the skills that will help away from the cricket pitch; improving their teamwork, leadership and communication.
In 2020, Blake became a full-time community coach for the Surrey Cricket Foundation. In 2022, he delivered 578 hours of Chance to Shine coaching, working with 2880 children in Surrey primary schools.
Blake continued to work hard at his game during his time as a Community Coach, unsuccessfully trying out for the MCC Young Cricketers programme. Despite the setback, he continued improving his game and was performing well for Sutton CC.
Blake had his first opportunity to play for Surrey’s Second XI in 2021 and has been a regular in the side this summer.
Speaking after signing his first professional contract, Josh Blake said “It’s been a long journey to get here but I’ve always just focussed on working hard and trying to improve my game. I love cricket and I want to play as much as I can!
“During my time working for SCF and Chance to Shine I loved working with the children to build their skills and help to grow the game. You have to adapt and be flexible with the differences in ability and experience of the people you work with but it was always really rewarding to see them improving and growing an interest in cricket.
“I had a taste of Second team cricket last summer and I was just really keen to play more and to improve as much as possible. To be awarded a professional contract is fantastic and I just can’t wait to get started.”
Chris Coleman, Director of the Surrey Cricket Foundation, said: “Josh has been doing an incredible job working with primary school children through the Chance to Shine programme as well as coaching players in the Surrey talent pathway programme. He’s a skilful coach, as comfortable working with children as young as five or six picking up a bat and a ball for the first time as he is with those who show some real talent for the game.
“He’s also a really lovely guy, he’s incredibly focussed, reliable and hard-working. We’ll be very sad to lose him but obviously everyone at the Foundation is very pleased for him and we wish him the very best for the future.”
Alec Stewart, Director of Cricket at Surrey CCC, said “Josh has worked hard to develop his game and has shown commitment and a desire to improve. I’m pleased to welcome him to the club as a professional and I look forward to seeing him take this opportunity.”