GARETH Andrew is relishing his role as Oxfordshire’s senior player, writes PAUL BOLTON.

The 34-year-old all-rounder was recruited to add experience to a young and talented squad.

And he has made a huge impact, taking 24 wickets and scoring three half-centuries in successive Minor Counties Championship victories over Dorset, Wales and Herefordshire.

Andrew’s contributions have taken Oxfordshire to third place in the Western Division table with two games to go – starting with a home match against Cornwall at Banbury on Sunday.

Andrew took five second innings wickets to clinch a thrilling win over Herefordshire at Brockhampton last week, but his role with Oxfordshire involves more than just runs and wickets.

“I didn’t see myself playing any Minor Counties cricket last year,” Andrew said.

“I felt that after 16 years as a professional that I would only be taking someone else’s slot and it wouldn’t be right for me to do so.

“But when Oxfordshire came to me this year and said that they wanted someone with experience to lead a young squad I was doing it for the right reasons.

“I have been very impressed with the standard of Minor Counties cricket and I am really enjoying it.

“As a senior player it’s about helping the younger players with their game management and giving them little bits of information.

“The coaches can work with the players all winter on technique, but if they are playing the wrong shot at the wrong time they need to be made more game aware.

“If we can help them improve their game management then they will mature quicker.”

Under the coaching of Rupert Evans and captaincy of Jonny Cater, Oxfordshire have placed the emphasis on youth in recent seasons.

They have developed close links with Gloucestershire and Sussex to allow some the county’s most talented youngsters to improve in the development systems of first-class counties.

Miles Hammond, who played for Oxfordshire in the Minor Counties T20 earlier this season, recently made his maiden first-class century for Gloucestershire and Sussex slow left-armer Harrison Ward, who played in Oxfordshire’s defeat by Berkshire in the opening round of the championship, played for England Under 19s against South Africa last month.

George Tait, Ollie Price and Olly Clarke are among others to have thrived this season.

“It’s good to see the younger players getting the opportunity to play senior county cricket with Oxfordshire but also to play in the development sides of first-class counties,” he said.

“I have been extremely impressed with the skill levels I have seen over the last three or four months.

“There are a few guys that I have played with and against who could definitely, skill wise, drop into a first-class county and hold their own.”

Oxfordshire are able to name nine of the 11 who starred in the win over Herefordshire for Sunday’s match.

Oxford batsman Owyn Tong-Jones replaces Ollie Price, who is playing for Young Lions south-west, and seamer Brad Taylor comes in for Harry Startin.

Oxon: J Cater (Buckingham), G Andrew (Ombersley), O Clarke (Banbury), T Condon (Aston Rowant), R Kaufman (Old Northamptonians), C Russell (Thame Tn), H Smith (Gt Tew), B Taylor (Banbury), J Thomas (Gt Tew), O Tong-Jones (Oxford), M Warner (Chesham).