England leg-spinner Matt Parkinson says he was “shocked” by the negative media coverage his bowling got while he was on tour in South Africa.
The Lancashire twirler was picked as one of two slow bowlers in the initial squad, but struggled in England’s first warm-up game of the tour, finishing with figures of 2-112 in 20 overs. Joe Root claimed 2-21 in 13 overs with his part-time off-spin.
Speaking on the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, Parkinson said he found the increased scrutiny that followed the spell hard to take. “It was tough,” he said. “I hadn’t really experienced the media scrutiny that comes with an England tour. The New Zealand tour was quite low-key in comparison. Having done OK in the white-ball I didn’t really receive any negative press and then I didn’t play in the Test matches so there wasn’t really anything for the press to write about.”
One report in the Daily Mail was particularly harsh. “Matt Parkinson must have wished he had succumbed to the sickness bug that left England severely depleted on Wednesday as he toiled to prove he can plug the gaping hole in the tourists’ spin attack,” it began, going on to say “Parkinson is in danger of joining other leg-spinners who have tried and failed such as Mason Crane and Chris Schofield.”
“It shocked me a bit that people were writing these articles, almost writing you off really,” said Parkinson. “I didn’t actually bowl that badly; this lad just smacked it.”
The batsman in question, Jacques Snyman, has a very impressive record at domestic level in South Africa. Snyman averages over 45 in first-class cricket with a strike-rate of more than 75. In List A cricket, he strikes at over 115 runs per 100 balls. Later in the tour, Snyman hit 65 against England in a warm-up game ahead of the ODI series, a match that saw Parkinson record figures of 2-24 from his eight overs.
Parkinson displayed improved control in the second red-ball warm-up game, returning figures of 0-60 from his 19 overs, but when left-arm spinner Jack Leach was forced to return home through illness, off-spinner Dom Bess, called up as cover, leapfrogged him to be selected for the second and third Tests after England’s all-seam attack in the first Test backfired.
“That was a massive set-back on that trip, for me,” said Parkinson. “A chance to show that I’d learnt a bit under Jeets [spin coach Jeetan Patel] and that I’d improved since I first came into the environment which I thought I had at the time, but when you get 2 for 110 off 20 in a red-ball warm-up game, it doesn’t look great. I actually bowled quite well in the next warm-up game, but I think from then on I was running uphill really.”