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England v South Africa 2022

The comeback of Ollie Robinson

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

Ollie Robinson’s winter was a complicated one.

Despite taking 11 wickets in the Ashes at an average of 25.54, concerns emerged over the Sussex quick’s fitness.

During the fifth Test at Hobart, England bowling coach Jon Lewis went public in his criticism of Robinson, telling BT Sport: “If he’s going to perform consistently over a long period of time at this level, he will need to be a fitter bowler.”

While Robinson was subsequently selected for England’s tour of the Caribbean, a back problem meant he missed all three Tests.

The setbacks continued when the summer began, too. He featured for Sussex against New Zealand in a warm-up game at Hove in May but subsequently missed out on playing the same opposition for the County Select XI, suffering a stiff back in the warm-up. To compound his misery, he tested positive for Covid-19 later that day.

Robinson consequently watched on from afar as England’s ‘Bazball’ revolution took hold, with Ben Stokes’ side stringing together four consecutive wins. While James Anderson and Stuart Broad led the line, Matt Potts came into the side and starred at first-change, taking 18 wickets in four Tests at an average of 26.72.

In late July, Robinson returned in the County Championship for Sussex and was immediately amongst the wickets, taking match figures of 9-104 against Nottinghamshire. Having landed a place in the squad for the South Africa Tests, he represented the Lions against South Africa in August, taking five wickets in an innings win. After England succumbed to defeat at Lord’s in the first Test, England decided it was time to bring Robinson back into the XI, replacing Potts.

The return has been a hugely successful one. After taking five wickets at Old Trafford, Robinson dismantled South Africa on day three of The Oval Test, finishing with Test-best figures of 5-49.

His numbers at Test level at this moment in time are astounding. After 20 Test innings, he has 49 wickets at an average of 19.79. Of players to have started their Test career this century and taken as many wickets, only Kyle Jamieson (72 wickets at 19.45) has a lower average.

Robinson fell just short of reaching 50 Test wickets on Saturday, but another scalp in the ongoing match will make him the fastest England bowler to the landmark (in terms of matches) since Dominic Cork in 1996. Cork took 11 Tests to get there, the same number Robinson has played so far.

A lowly average is matched by an impressive strike rate of 43.8. Of bowlers to have debuted this century in Test cricket and taken as many wickets, only six have better strike rates.

Perhaps the most striking number when it comes to Robinson this summer is the one on the speed gun. Having recently talked of becoming “a bit of a gym freak,” Robinson has showcased greater pace in the last couple of Tests. At one point during his new-ball spell on Saturday, CricViz highlighted his average speed this summer to be 82.9mph, up from 79.2mph during the Ashes.

After beginning the summer out of the England picture, Robinson now finds himself at the centre of it.

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