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From rooting around the garage to sitting on the floor with Jimmy: The inside story of Matt Parkinson’s Test debut

matt parkinson
Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 7 minute read

Matt Parkinson became England’s first concussion substitute during their win at Lord’s. He spoke to Yas Rana about his manic first day in Test cricket, that started with him preparing for a day trip to the Lake District and ended up with him padding up to face Boult and Southee at the Home of Cricket.

YR: Matt Parkinson, England Test Cricketer. How does that sound?

MP: It sounds a bit strange. It’s probably not really sunk in just yet. Obviously, this week’s been a bit of a whirlwind; I was getting ready to have a nice Jubilee Thursday off. I was then gonna play against Northants on Friday night and pretty much not [inaudible] myself to the fact that I probably won’t play for England for a while, but it wasn’t really on my radar. It was very random and just very pleased it went fairly well.

YR: What communication did you have with the England set-up before Thursday?

MP: I was told I was a concussion reserve but that was about three weeks ago. When you’re a concussion reserve the chances are it’s not gonna happen, is it? Like, it’s very random, very rare that that would happen. I got a phone call from Keysy [Rob Key] – must have been three-and-a-half weeks ago now – saying, ‘You’ve not made the squad, you’re a concussion replacement for Jack [Leach]’ and that I wasn’t in the Holland squad as well. So yeah, to get that phone call… it wasn’t a great phone call but I was pretty happy playing for Lancashire, it’s been a good start to the season and I’m loving my cricket for them this year.

So when I saw Jack go down as badly as he did, I had a half-thought that I might get a call, but again, I wasn’t sure whether they’d made a couple of the other boys concussion subs as well, so I wasn’t fully sure that I was gonna get the call.

YR: How did you find out that you were needed?

MP: I was watching the game, the car was getting packed to go away for the night and I got a phone call from the team manager saying, ‘Can you come down to London?’ At that stage, I thought it would just be as cover. I didn’t know how badly Jack was hurt, and that he’d been withdrawn. So yeah, I’m not sure if many lads have rocked up for a Test debut in jogger shorts and a T-shirt before, which was funny. And then I managed to get some kit, and within a couple of hours, I had my thigh pad on ready to bat.

YR: I read that you were having people over at yours for a barbecue when you found out?

MP: That got a bit exaggerated; I was planning to have a barbecue on the Sunday. I was actually going to the Lake District on Thursday. The car was packed, ready to go. I think I made a comment like, ‘Oh, I was meant to be having the lads round for a barbecue’ and then the story grew from there really. But yeah, I had a nice weekend planned!

The three days I had there [at Lord’s] was fantastic. As I say, it probably hasn’t properly sunk in because four days ago, if I’d have had this conversation, I’d have laughed, so to now be a Test cricketer and to have a Test wicket to my name is brilliant.

YR: Did you have all your kit? It was obviously very hastily arranged.

MP: No, I had to go to Old Trafford and pick up my kit. I had to get my white pads out from my garage, because obviously we haven’t played red-ball now for two-and-a-half, three weeks, so I’ve just been carrying around a bat and gloves. I don’t even bother taking a helmet and pads to T20s sometimes. I had to go to Old Trafford to get my kit and then I contemplated having a little bowl with Lancs’ spin coach Carl Crowe. When I got to ground we thought it was just best to set off and get to Lord’s but yeah, it was one of those like, people were like…I could pick out tweets, ‘Where is he?’ ‘Where is he?’ And I’m like, ‘There’s only so fast you can drive without breaking the land speed record and getting a speeding ticket’ so I just tried to drive steady and not rush, and luckily there was no traffic. I got to the hotel at about ten-to-five, went to my room and then literally went in my shorts and T-shirt to the ground.

YR: What was the drive down like?

MP: One of the journos found out exactly where I stopped; I don’t know who leaked that to him – very random. I stopped at Keele services, got some food and a coffee. I only got there [the team hotel] at about five and then I went straight to the ground, and yeah, as I said, within an hour, I had my thigh pad on.

There were a bit of nerves, bit of excitement, I tried not to overthink it. Like, I was thinking ‘I’ve not bowled with a red ball for two-and-a-half weeks, shit,’ – had I forgotten how to do it type of thing? But I just tried to chill out and relax, and there’s nothing you can do in a car so there’s no point worrying about what’s going on. I actually thought at one stage that I was gonna go there and just bat twice and not bowl. When I saw they were 100-9 and we got bowled out for 140, I was sort of resigning myself to the fact that I wouldn’t get a bowl. But no, yeah, as you say, it was a tough drive down. It’s a long drive and your emotions and thoughts can run wild but I like to think that I turned up in a decent headspace.

YR: What was it like linking up with the dressing room? Had you met Brendon McCullum before?

MP: I’d never met Baz before but obviously, all the other boys I’d been on loads of tours with so it was pretty easy. I’ve spent a lot of time in that changing room; they’re a fantastic set, they were really happy for me that I’d finally got a game. Luckily, we started with a win as well.

YR: What was it like when you got there? What was the mood like in the dressing room?

MP: It was good. Very positive, I don’t think there’s probably any other word you can describe the dressing room. It was positive with Baz and Stokesy in charge. Everyone was relaxed and made me feel very welcome. For what was happening in the first day it was very relaxed. If that was county cricket, we’d have been panicking and lads would’ve been throwing pads around and shitting themselves but no, it was very relaxed and I think that filtered into the bowling and my bowling as well. I knew that I had the backing of the changing room, I knew that the lads were genuinely happy I was playing. Even Leachy – he’s one of my best mates – he was buzzing for me. It’s obviously not a great way to make your Test debut, being a concussion replacement for one of your closest mates but he was brilliant with me the whole week, as were all the boys.

YR: Before we get to the bowling, I’ve got to ask – talk me through the on-drive?

MP: Yeah, that’s the only reason I accepted this call! It was nice that, wasn’t it? I enjoyed that. Yeah, it was fun batting, it was nice to bat with Jimmy [Anderson] as well. We kept it pretty relaxed – it was fun, I enjoyed it. It was nice to start with the bat actually as well and not go straight into bowling. It was nice to get a feel for the crowd, the ground, what Test cricket is about because when you’re on the bench for a long time, you can probably take it for granted. You just think, ‘Oh, another day of carrying drinks,’ and you probably don’t take in the atmosphere or the size of the crowd because there’s no pressure on you to carry a drink – you just run it out – and someone needs gloves, you run a glove out and you do a bit of running at lunch. But it was nice to start with the bat with Jimmy, and I was pretty pleased I managed to get a decent bowl on day two. Obviously, I would’ve liked us to bat till halfway through day four and then have a bowl, but, no, as weeks go, I think it went as well as it could.

YR: Had you bowled much in first-class cricket at Lord’s before?

MP: Once properly, in the Bob Willis Trophy final last year. I bowled about 35 overs from the Nursery End, which is the end I enjoyed more in the game as well. I’d never really bowled much from the Pavilion End [the end he bowled from on day two] – I bowled about 10 overs from the Pavilion End, so yeah, it was a new experience. I’ve never really played at Lord’s that early in the season as well. My only other real bowl at Lord’s was in my debut season where I bowled 20-odd overs but I’m not really counting that because I was 19, so I can’t remember how I bowled.

It was nice, I thought it came out okay. Obviously I would’ve liked to have bowled better but with the preparation in the build-up and everything that went with it, if you’d have offered me 1-47 off 15-and-a-half overs, I’d have probably taken it.

YR: What was it like bowling in a Lord’s Test match?

MP: I thought it went okay. First couple of overs were a bit nervy but I’m bowling to two set players [Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell] on an early June Lord’s pitch. It’s quite difficult and they did put me under pressure. I think they ran at 27 per cent of the balls in that spell, so to come out of it going at just over threes, I was pretty pleased with that. I got nice feedback from the lads. Jimmy spoke nicely at the end of the game about me and Pottsy so I came off feeling fairly happy not fully knowing how other people thought, and then to have the feedback that I did a decent job was nice. It rounded off a decent three days.

YR: What was the mood like during the Stokes-Root and Root-Foakes partnerships? The team haven’t won many Test matches recently and that’s a seriously good win, chasing 277 against New Zealand at Lord’s.

MP: It was brilliant! Obviously, the mood goes up when Stokesy bangs it. I actually didn’t watch that much – I’m not a great cricket watcher. I was sat on the floor with Jimmy and Leesy [Alex Lees] for most of the first part of our second innings. You really want the team to win and you’re heavily invested in that – it’s a very different feeling being part of the team.

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