Dom Bess is young but has the guts and maturity to perform at the highest level……
The third spinner to make his Test debut for England in a span of four games, Dominic Bess had a lot riding on him during the first innings of the first Test match between England and Pakistan. The 20-year-old who has played only 16 first-class matches in his life was nowhere close to a Test debut for his nation till even a few months ago, but an unfortunate injury to his Somerset teammate Jack Leach, who had made his international debut in the second Test against New Zealand, two games after Mason Crane debuted during the Ashes in Sydney, fast-forwarded his foray.
The youngster who had played for England Lions was hardly expected to make an impact at Lord’s but with both chief selector Ed Smith and captain Joe Root having high expectations, the onus was on Bess to make a mark. He made his Championship debut way back in September 2016 against Warkwickshire and on a spinning track, he catapulted to fame by capturing Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell off successive deliveries. He ended the innings with six wickets from just 16 overs and finished off a dream start with 2 more in the second innings. In March, when the English team were struggling to notch up even a single win abroad, he picked up 8 wickets against Essex and even raced away to a hundred in no time.
He picked up 63 wickets at 22.49 in his 16 games, which is a huge feat in itself. No other spinner in the last 3 years has taken 50 wickets in a few games. He prefers to be calm and patient, with the highest dot-ball percentage amongst any spinner in the Championship who has bowled at least 300 balls. However, the fact that he has never played in the England capital was always going to be a disadvantage, which was only reinforced in the first innings when he conceded 59 runs in his 17 overs without picking up a wicket. He had an economy rate of 3.5 – the most expensive bowler from his team.
With an impressive average of 14.04 against the left-handers in the Championship, Bess did have an outside chance of impressing with the rival camp possessing three left-handers. However, he bowled six balls upfront to Haris Sohail, conceding a boundary and did not get an opportunity to bowl to either Imam ul Haq or Faheem Ashraf. Instead, the batsmen found a way to counter his spin by attacking almost 10% of his balls and coming down the track to him. In the county games, he is usually attacked in 5% of his deliveries, and it is safe to say that the extra aggressive approach that they took towards him hindered his progress.
However, in the batting front, he scored a crucial 55 from just 101 balls to save England the blushes after they had lost 6 wickets for just 110 runs. His innings was laced with 40% attacking shots and Pakistan failed in their homework by not bowling spinner Shadab Khan enough, as he averages around 13 against the slower balls.
He smashed consecutive fours off Ashraf in the 57th over – the first, an outside edge delivery through the fourth slip and the second a lovely cover drive off a front foot stride that found its gap. He did have a momentary lapse in concentration off Mohammad Amir but regained his composure soon enough to smash 4 fours in 11 balls to take England past the lead. He hit yet another four off Mohammad Abbas in the 70th over – picking up the length early, he was quick to punch the ball through the covers and his batting skills, that go perfectly with his spinning abilities was a major reason why the youngster was picked in the side.
“Dom does not overthink things. He just gets on with it. Give him an opportunity and he’ll embrace it. At Lord’s on Thursday I expect him to be thinking, ‘Right, I want to get five wickets here,” had stated Charlie Gabbitass, Bess’s coach at Blundell’s School.
He has already made a mark with his batting, but the major reason why he is in the squad is for his bowling and even though the off-spinner averages 30 away from the spin-friendly track of Taunton, where he averages 22.87, the determination was on full display with the bat, and with the ball as well, one can expect the player to stand up and deliver.