Englandwatch: Injury concerns mount, Potts stars in thriller and a star of the future emerges
The sixth round of County Championship action in 2023 saw Surrey go top of Division One and Durham edge out Yorkshire with a one-wicket win in a Chester-le-Street thriller.
The latest round of matches featured a catalogue of largely uninspiring performances from players battling for a place in the squad for this summer’s Ashes as well as another batch of injury concerns among English seamers. Here’s how players involved in recent England Test squads, as well as a handful of last winter’s England Lions tourists, got on this week.
Matthew Potts: 4-49, 4-61 & 25 v Yorkshire
Matthew Potts couldn’t escape the action in Durham’s thrilling victory over Yorkshire, taking eight wickets for the match and helping Durham to edge towards their 246-run target on day four. Potts he has now taken 24 scalps at 22.50 in four games this summer as is the second-leading wicket-taker in Division Two. With seamers dropping like flies around him, Potts is well placed to feature at some point during the Test summer.
Ben Duckett: 39 v Northamptonshire
Duckett continued his solid start to the summer, hitting a quick-fire 39 from 43 balls as Nottinghamshire swiped aside Northants, outscored only by Joe Clarke. Notts’ first innings 255 was enough for an innings victory. and Duckett didn’t need to pad up for a second time.
Alex Lees: 15 & 38 v Yorkshire
Lees played less of a starring role in the blockbuster game against Yorkshire than Potts, scoring 15 and 38. Lees averages just under 40 with the bat so far this summer.
James Anderson: 2-16 v Somerset
Old Trafford were treated to a trademark Anderson new-ball showing on the first day, with the veteran finishing with figures of 2-16 from 14 overs. However, a suspected groin tweak saw Jimmy leave the field on Thursday and not return to bat or bowl – England fans will wait with bated breath and hope that the decision was a precautionary one.
Rehan Ahmed: 0-22, 59* & 9 v Sussex
Young starlet Rehan Ahmed played with a freedom that he has become synonymous with during his meteoric rise, but his unbeaten 59 from 74 balls wasn’t enough to get Leicestershire past the follow-on. He was unfortunate to be dismissed for just nine in the second innings, courtesy of a blinding catch from potential Ashes rival Steve Smith.
Zak Crawley: 7 & 56 v Hampshire
It’s been a topsy-turvy start to the English summer for Kent opener Zak Crawley, who has made efforts to silence doubters with big scores of 170 and 91 against Essex and Northamptonshire respectively. He recorded a fourth single-figure score in nine innings against Hampshire as Kent slumped to 95 all out. He made a strong start in the second innings, hitting 56, before playing and missing down the track to be stumped off the bowling of Liam Dawson. Crawley looked understandably frustrated with himself as he trudged back to the pavilion, but it was an important innings for his side as they ultimately avoided defeat against a strong Hampshire line-up.
Sam Billings: 2 & 29 v Hampshire
Crawley’s captain had another game to forget, scoring just 31 runs across his two innings. Billings averages 10.22 so far this season and is yet to pass 35 – a Test return looks some way off at the moment.
Jonny Bairstow: 27 & 36 v Durham
The most difficult selection conundrum remains the question of how to best slot Jonny Bairstow back into the fold. His second first-class match since returning from injury did not reap the run-scoring rewards he and fans want – his second-innings 36 came from 101 balls, far removed from the 2022 iteration of Bairstow.
Dan Lawrence: 29 & 16 v Warwickshire
Dan Lawrence is yet to feature under the Bazball regime, and it is unlikely he’ll swap in for any of England’s middle-order luminaries barring injury. A run-a-ball 29 was the highlight of Lawrence’s week.
Ben Foakes: 22 v Middlesex
Foakes is arguably the most likely player to give way for the returning Bairstow. What will be missed, should he be dropped, is his wicketkeeping. Foakes’ catch to dismiss John Simpson on day four was sublime, the pick of his six catches in Middlesex’s second innings.
Will Jacks: 27 & 0-8 v Middlesex
An underwhelming derby for Will Jacks, who scored a speedy 27 and bowled just two overs.
Jack Leach: 9 & 1-57 v Lancashire
Just the one wicket for England’s frontline spinner, his 14th so far in the 2023 County Championship. It was a good’un though, beating Josh Bohannon’s defence to bowl him for 31.
Saqib Mahmood: 1-66, 1* & 1-46 v Somerset
The Lancashire seamer continues to feel his way back into red-ball cricket following his stress fracture last year. 2-110 for the game against Somerset.
James Rew: 105 & 118* v Lancashire
At just 19 years of age, James Rew is one of the most exciting young prospects in England. He scored his third and fourth first-class centuries against Lancashire this week, and now sits atop the Division One runs leaderboard, with 539 at 67.38. While there will be an asterisk against his second hundred – much of his innings came against declaration bowling.
Jamie Smith: 97 v Middlesex
22-year-old Jamie Smith hit 97 in Surrey’s win over Middlesex. Smith now averages over 40 in 42 first-class outings – England really aren’t short of middle-order options as they look to the future.
Craig Overton: 35 & 4-52 v Lancashire
Craig Overton hit 35 from No. 8 and took 4-52, Overton last played a Test for England in the Caribbean last year.
Matthew Fisher: 2-55, 4-64, 27* & 8*
The Yorkshire paceman has just one Test match to his name and will hope for a strong 2023 campaign to stake his claim as a potential Anderson-Broad successor. He took six wickets against Durham and contributed some valuable lower-order runs in the process.
Brydon Carse: 2-60 & 1-16
Carse is legitimately one of the fastest bowlers in the country but added his name to the list of England seamers with an injury cloud hanging over their head. Carse is set to go for a scan this week to determine the severity of a side strain he picked up in Durham’s win over Yorkshire.