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The English Mo Abbases: County cricket’s prolific uncapped seamers

Yas Rana by Yas Rana
@Yas_Wisden 5 minute read

Earlier this summer, England saw first-hand that pace isn’t always everything in Test cricket. Jason Holder’s match-winning six-for at the Ageas Bowl was arguably the spell of the summer, while Mohammad Abbas’s bail-trimmer to Ben Stokes was one of the best deliveries of the Test season.

Both seamers hover round the 80mph-mark and prove that you can forge a successful Test career as a seamer without express pace. With that in mind and given that England have valued extra speed in some of their recent selections, here’s a look at 14 uncapped seamers who regularly churn out impressive performances in the county game without that express pace that is so sought after.

Stats in bold restricted to first-class performances in England from 2017 onwards 

Chris Rushworth

198 wickets @ 20.67, 9 five-fors, BBI: 8-51

Chris Rushworth has long been one of the most prolific bowlers in county cricket. His haul of 83 County Championship wickets in 2015 remains the highest tally of wickets taken by a seamer in a single season this century and at 34, he is still doing the business for Durham, having passed 500 first-class wickets during the Bob Willis Trophy.

Jamie Porter

226 wickets @ 21.41, 11 five-fors, BBI: 7-51

Jamie Porter came within touching distance of a Test debut when he was included in England’s 13-man squad for the first game of the 2018 India series. Two years down the line – after his omission from England’s 55-man training group earlier this summer – it feels that might be as close as Porter gets to a Test cap, not that that’s affected his relentless wicket-taking for Essex. In 2020, he took 27 first-class wickets at 19.66 as Essex claimed their third first-class trophy in four years.

Sam Cook

98 wickets @ 22.53, 7 five-fors, BBI: 7-23

Four years younger than his new ball partner, Sam Cook has been every bit as pivotal to Essex’s two most recent red-ball triumphs as Porter. More of a line bowler than Porter, and less reliant on movement through the air, Cook has taken his wickets at fewer runs per dismissal than Porter in the last two summers.

Ryan Higgins

127 wickets @ 21.62, 5 five-fors, BBI: 7-42

A highly-rated all-rounder who played a vital role in Gloucestershire’s promotion from Division Two of the County Championship in 2019, Ryan Higgins, 25, first received England Lions recognition in 2019. With the ball, the Zimbabwe-born right-armer has been prolific. One of the slower bowlers on this list, Higgins has continuously proved to be a thorn in county batting line-ups, not yet finishing a season with a first-class average of over 24.

Keith Barker

115 wicket @ 25.03, 3 five-fors, BBI: 5-32

Another all-rounder and the only left-hander on this list. Back in 2012, Keith Barker was a key part of Warwickshire’s Championship-winning side, taking 56 wickets at 20.82. Eight years on, Barker, now plying his trade at the Ageas Bowl with Hampshire, remains a potent threat with the new ball in county cricket.

Darren Stevens

188 wickets @ 17.79, 17 five-fors, BBI: 8-75

Count cricket’s Benjamin Button continues to defy the conventional aging process. Darren Stevens turns 45 next April and astonishingly, he keeps on getting better. Since the start of the 2017 season, when Stevens was 40, he’s taken 188 first-class scalps at a smidgeon under 18. Silly, silly numbers.

Harry Podmore

127 wickets @ 25.37, 4 five-fors, BBI: 6-36

Harry Podmore has been prolific since joining Kent from Middlesex in 2018. A core member of an ever-improving Kent side, Podmore is another with excellent numbers – he has 118 first-class wickets at 23.62 since his move to the county.

Matt Milnes

84 wickets @ 28.09, 2 five-fors, BBI: 5-68

Probably the quickest bowler on this list, Matt Milnes’ performances for Kent deserve greater recognition. In 2019, no England-qualified bowler took more Division One County Championship wickets than Milnes. A maiden England Lions call-up, fixtures permitting, surely awaits in 2021.

Tom Bailey

141 wickets @ 21.10, 6 five-fors, BBI: 5-41

The leading wicket-taker in the 2018 County Championship as Lancashire were relegated from Division, Tom Bailey was rewarded for his efforts with an England Lions call-up the following winter. Bailey has averaged less than 22 in each of his last three seasons of red-ball cricket.

Ben Sanderson

172 wickets @ 18.75, 8 five-fors, BBI: 6-37

Simply put, Sanderson’s numbers are outstanding. Since establishing himself in the Northants side in 2015, Sanderson hasn’t looked back. Across his first-class career, Sanderson now has 244 wickets at 19.84.

Jack Brooks

115 wickets @ 28.70, 7 five-fors, BBI: 6-94

A cult hero of county cricket, Jack Brooks has long been one of its most successful bowlers. Another afforded a route into the professional game by Northants, Brooks played a key part in Yorkshire’s back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015, and at 36, was still a mainstay of the Somerset attack that came agonisingly close to claiming the Bob Willis Trophy.

Ollie Robinson

178 wickets @ 18.03, 13 five-fors, BBI: 8-34

Described by one esteemed journalist as county cricket’s Glenn McGrath, Ollie Robinson is the bowler on this list who is perhaps closest to a place in the England side. He took his first-class wickets at just 12.50 runs apiece in the Bob Willis Trophy.

Oliver Hannon-Dalby

99 wickets @ 23.20, 4 five-fors, BBI: 6-33

Known for being the owner of the English game’s more quirky actions, Oliver Hannon-Dalby has quietly turned into one of the most consistent wicket-takers on the circuit, leading an often inexperienced Warwickshire attack with aplomb. Since the start of 2017, Hannon-Dalby has 106 first-class wickets at 21.94.

Ben Coad

155 wickets @ 19.13, 9 five-fors, BBI: 6-25

Given that Coad has played all his County Championship cricket in Division One, his career average of 19.93 is extraordinary. A bowler who moves the ball in both directions, it is a touch bewildering that he has never won even an England Lions call-up. Like others on this list, his lack of express pace is seemingly held against his England ambitions.

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