The tale of two spinners
Both Dom Bess and Jack Leach have put together compelling cases to be selected this summer, with both New Zealand and India touring. However, only one is likely to play in English conditions because four fast bowlers including Ben Stokes are likely to play most of the games.
So, who should England pick this summer and what skills do both have that differentiates them from one another?
The making of Jack Leach
He is much older than his counterpart, at 29 years of age. Consequently, he has much more experience on the County Circuit. Jack Leach has played nearly double the amount of First Class Cricket as Dom Bess – 102 compared to 57 games. He is also much more consistent as a spin bowler overall. This is perhaps because he has had a longer career so far and learnt his own game much better in that time period.
His 330 wickets in First Class Cricket have come at a bowling average of 26. These are solid numbers for a left-arm spinner playing most of his games in England, where the pitches tend to suit the quicker bowlers, with swing and seam movement. His 62 wickets in 16 Tests have come at a bowling average of 30 and should he continue picking up four wickets per game on average, there will be no issues with him being the number one spinner.
He is also a steady batsman, illustrated by multiple innings in the past. His 1 not out against Australia at Headingley is probably the most iconic but his 92 against Ireland at Lords, as a nightwatchman was a stellar knock in difficult conditions.
The potential of Dom Bess
Dom Bess is a much better all-rounder than Jack Leach and offers a lot with both the bat and ball. His average of 23 in Test Cricket and 24 in First Class Cricket, shows that he can chip in with vital runs towards the end of the innings. These extra runs are often useful in English conditions, where there can be low-scoring games.
However, his bowling can be inconsistent at times. In 14 Tests, he has taken 36 wickets at a bowling average of 34. Considering that he has two four-wicket hauls and two five-wicket hauls in this time, a wickets-per-game ratio of 2.6 is not enough. There have been a number of Tests and innings for England in which he hasn’t been effective.
Bess often struggles to find the right line and length to bowl at and can offer up freebies at times. His First Class record is quite similar and this shows that he needs to improve a lot if he wants to be the primary spin bowler for Joe Root in the years to come.
At this point, it seems unlikely that he will play against New Zealand and India in the summer, considering that England will likely field only one spinner maximum at home. In some games, they might not field a spin bowler at all. But, he is still a young all-rounder and has plenty of potential to grow.
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