Rising star Joe Kinghorn-Gray looks to build on a successful season

Joe Kinghorn-Gray is a happy man. With his side promoted to the CSL Eastern Premiership and a T20 debut for the Eastern Knights the Royal High Corstorphine captain has enjoyed a season to remember, and as he prepares to spend the winter in New Zealand the prospect of building on both aspects of that success next time around is clearly on his mind, too.

With ESCA Championship winners Edinburgh CC not meeting the criteria for promotion RHC reached the Eastern play-off as runners-up in the division. It was to be no back-door elevation for the Edinburgh side, however, as a storming performance in the season-ending match at Falkland saw Strathmore Union champions Stoneywood Dyce dismissed for just 28 as RHC wrapped up an eight-wicket victory.

After two years away from the top flight, Kinghorn-Gray feels that it is a much stronger side which will be returning.

“Promotion was very much our target at the start of the season and we achieved that so we’re really happy,” he said.

“Last season we tended to rely on one or two performers but this year we were able to spread the load so much more. It made it harder for the opposition because they weren’t able to focus on seeing off one bowler or taking one big wicket. They had to play fifty overs of good bowling and then get through what was a strong batting line-up.

“Cricket is a team game after all and a big part of our ethos this year was that everyone in the team was there to do a job. Luckily that happened right the way through the season.”

RHC had made their ambition plain over the winter with the eye-catching signing of Majid Haq, and with 37 wickets, including returns of 6-5 against Gala and 6-12 against Stoneywood Dyce, the all-rounder was to play a central role in the campaign.

“Maj has been brilliant, he has had an influence over everything,” said Kinghorn-Gray. “He has seen it all before and with that experience he helped develop a lot of players this season, particularly our spinners.

“Nothing is new to him, nothing really fazes him and he has been looking to pass that on to the guys.”

With bowlers Callum Dutia and slow left-armer Calum Clarkson also in the wickets and both Sam Flett and Majid passing 300 runs with the bat that powerful team ethic was clear. Personal recognition was to come for the captain, too, as Kinghorn-Gray’s 22 league wickets earned the twenty-three year old a place in the Eastern Knights squad for the Regional T20 Blitz.

“I didn’t know if it was on the cards but it was great to get the call-up,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.

“Going forward I want to see if I can hold my place in the company of so many good cricketers. The experience of playing alongside these guys in a high-performance environment all adds up.

“You often don’t realise that you’re learning, hearing little ideas and subconsciously picking things up, and I want to continue being a part of it for as long as I can.”

That learning process will continue over the winter, too, as Kinghorn-Gray makes a return to Parnell CC in Auckland, the oldest club in New Zealand.

“I have been out there three times previously and I’m really looking forward to heading across again,” he said.

“I work with Ian Trott [father of Jonathan], the head coach who is in charge of the senior teams and does a lot with the juniors, too.

“From a playing point of view it’s a good standard of cricket. The likes of Mark Chapman and Ben Horne play at the start of the year and the two-day cricket is fun, too, a bit of a change.

“Overall it’s great to broaden my horizons. I take things to them and get to bring things back from a coaching and playing point of view. It helps me and it helps the club, too.”

And when it comes to next season, Kinghorn-Gray is clear in his ambition for RHC.

“I want to see RHC become a stable Premiership side,” he said. “The last time we went up it didn’t quite go to plan but the core of the team is the same and we have learned from that experience.

“We are all still quite young but those two years have definitely made a big difference. We know what it takes to win games now and we will be looking to push on and see just where we can go.”