Tag: First look

Ben Foakes: first look in Test cricket

Ben Foakes (via Sky Sports)

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Craig Overton: first look in Test cricket

Craig Overton dismisses Steve Smith (via BT Sport)

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from players’ debuts – but we report on them anyway.

Craig Overton looks like a big fast bowler. Then he humphs in and dobbles it like a good ‘un.

Dobblery is not a craft that is highly regarded in Test cricket, but when allied to height – Overton is 6ft5in – you can certainly build a career on it. Plenty of tall seamers have dobbled their way through a sizeable proportion of their careers.

Shaun Pollock dobbled for many a year. Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh purveyed bouncy dobble for longer than anyone cares to acknowledge. Glenn McGrath was pretty much King of Dobble.

Craig Overton is a good few hundred wickets away from the Pantheon of Dobblery, but in failing to get absolutely murdered by every single batsman who faced him, he encouraged the notion that he might yet play a few more matches. He also does the Alan Mullally thing of giving it a bit more oomph whenever he jams in a bouncer.

His first wicket wasn’t bad either: Steve Smith dirtily bowled off pad and then bat.

It was a pure dobbler’s dismissal, leaving the batsman with an infuriated sense that he hasn’t properly been beaten, even as he looks back at the splayed stumped evidence to the contrary.

More of this kind of thing.

Toby Roland-Jones: first look in Test cricket

Toby Roland-Jones (via Twitter)

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from players’ debuts – but we report on them anyway.

We suppose that if people call you Toblerone, you’re kind of duty-bound to provide the odd peak. 4-39 is pretty useful for a kick-off.

Toby Roland-Jones seems to bowl at around 80mph. On another day, people would be saying that’s not quick enough. But it works for Vernon Philander and it worked for Glenn McGrath. The trick is to keep playing well enough that no-one can find the time to dissect your shortcomings.

One thing you do have, when your pace tends towards medium, is less margin for error. Fortunately, on this evidence, Roland-Jones generally bowls within effective parameters. He hits that very small spot that is inevitably referred to as “good areas”.

Tougher challenges await. It won’t often swing and seam quite like this. At the same time, it seems likely that Roland-Jones will perform if it does. Shorn of debut nerves, he might even bowl better.

So he gets a green swinging conditions pass – and with flying colours. That’s all it was within his power to achieve after one day of bowling and it’s also not a bad qualification to attain if you’re looking to do half your Test bowling in England.

Tom Westley: first look in Test cricket

Tom Westley (via Twitter video)

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from debut performances – but we report on them anyway.

If there’s one thing we’ll say for Tom Westley, it’s that he appears to have a pleasing preference for the workmanlike side of the ground.

Legside nurdlery has always worked for Alastair Cook and it worked for Jonathan Trott, so we’re definitely reassured by this. What’s the alternative? The James Vince off-drive?

Westley faced some good bowling and didn’t really do anything stupid. We were moderately encouraged by this.

Keaton Jennings: first look in Test cricket

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from debut performances – but we report on them anyway.

If there’s one thing that county cricket generally doesn’t involve, it’s playing in India. You can probably think of other things it doesn’t involve, but this particular aspect seems relevant to Keaton Jennings’ Test debut because he was asked to play in India.

If there’s one thing that playing cricket in India isn’t, it’s playing cricket in England. Sure, there are similarities – lunch breaks, tea breaks, ferocious inescapable heat – but you’re hardly likely to encounter a full trio of spin bowlers up at the Riverside.

It was therefore interesting to see how Jennings went about his business. The opener’s approach against seamers is all straight and conventional, but against the spinners he seemed hell-bent on scoring via the reverse sweep.

This is hardly surprising in this day and age. The shot is now so commonplace, we move that it be renamed ‘the sweep’ and the conventional sweep rebranded ‘the reverse sweep’ to better reflect the likelihood of seeing each played.

At one point during his innings, Keaton Jennings reached three figures. This, to us, seemed impressive. However, he didn’t look especially angry about his achievement, which leads us to conclude that he may lack whatever it is that allows many high profile cricketers to feel ‘super-psyched’ about reaching such landmarks.

Whether that’s a strength or a weakness is something that could have been discussed in this final paragraph, but wasn’t. Instead, we wrote one sentence that failed to address the matter and then a second purely so that there was no confusion about whether the paragraph in question could more accurately have been described as a sentence.

Jake Ball: first look in Test cricket

We don’t believe you can draw meaningful conclusions from debut performances – but we report on them anyway.

Google does currently appear to be conflating Jake Ball with the Welsh rugby player of the same name. The cricket one’s tall, but we’re pretty sure he doesn’t weigh 121kg. Our first impressions indicate that he will eventually be recognised in his own right, however.

We’ve already mentioned that Ball’s tall and assuming he’s not actually 121kg, that’s an advantage too. Other than that, he swung it a little, seamed it a bit, and didn’t really bowl any dross. He bowled at new-young-England-seam-bowler pace (87mph) and didn’t look particuarly arsed about being asked to open the bowling for England.

Ball doesn’t stand out as having any particular quality that would elevate him above all other bowlers, but then if you took one look at Stuart Broad you’d probably conclude much the same about him.

So, in summary: all good.

James Vince: first look in Test cricket

We have a general belief that a player’s first Test appearance is near-worthless in terms of evaluating his quality. It therefore seemed to make perfect sense for us to start documenting players’ debuts. This is the first of those pieces.

We said we had faint misgivings about James Vince ahead of his Test debut. It’s not that we don’t rate him, because we don’t know him. We had however heard that he was stylish and we always think that style is a strong indicator of a poor Test debutant.

Our reasoning is thus: stylish batsmen look good and have to do less to win people over, so all other things being equal they will be worse than shonky-looking batsmen who have to be way more effective to break into the Test team.

Batting-wise, Vince hit two fours and then edged to slip trying to hit a third. It was a shame that he himself wasn’t the fielder, because he also dropped a couple of catches – one of which was pretty straightforward.

So far so rubbish, but Vince’s match was completely salvaged by his magnificent bowling. He didn’t just bowl medium-pace. He bowled an over of medium-pace bouncers, one of which almost took a wicket. Short-pitched medium-pace is such a colossally contrary way of trying to dismiss Test batsmen that we feel sure it will reap great rewards.

On this evidence, James Vince is now our equal-favourite bowler in the world, along with Gary Ballance.

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