RARING-to-go all-rounder Gareth Andrew admits it has been painful having to watch Worcestershire from the sidelines, powerless to help his team-mates do battle.

The 28-year-old was a vital cog in the New Road team that retained their LV= County Championship Division One status last term, but has been out of action since having a knee operation following the climax of that campaign.

Although he bowled well in the nets yesterday and said his knee felt good, Andrew admitted he has been hampered by the weather-enforced lack of opportunities to play cricket.

The former Somerset player, who finished runner-up to Marcus Trescothick in the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s MVP rankings last year, said: “The knee is getting there now and I’m still ahead of schedule, but I’ve been put back a few weeks by the bad weather.

“We weren’t really able to play any cricket for three weeks so, while I am glad to be back, I’m still not where I want to be.

“It has been painful living every ball with the boys, but not being able to get out there and take part.

“Hopefully, as I haven’t missed too much cricket, I can get straight back in and do a job for the team.”

Andrew continued: “I am confident in the nets and we planned for me to be back around June time, but really I could have been back at maybe the end of April.

“We were always targeting the Twenty20 for my return and said anything in front of that would be a bonus.

“However, once pre-season started and I was so far ahead of schedule, we were licking our lips but, the way the weather has been so far this year, it has been difficult to get much cricket in.

“Looking back to December and January when I was sat on the machine for 10 hours-a-day bending and straightening my leg, it has been a long, long winter, so I am looking forward to being back out there.

“I played in the university match which was my last game apart from a few club cricket fixtures.

“Last week I then went straight into the second XI friendly against Hampshire, which was also cut short by rain.

“We have been training hard through the winter, but it is now just a case of trying to get the whole body conditioned back into playing cricket again.”

Despite the poor recent weather, Andrew’s Cheshire League side, Oxton, have managed to dodge the showers to record four wins.

Last season’s County player-of-the-year said: “I’ve been playing a bit of club cricket in the Cheshire League for Oxton, who are based in Birkenhead. That was the only side I was able to get locally — and it’s not very local!

“We’ve done really well with four wins out of four so far and came through a bit of a nail-biter at the weekend when we were nine down with 30 runs to win, but ended up doing it. The lads up there have been great and it’s been good to play some cricket.”