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John Turner: I’ve got something to live up to now to prove I wasn’t just a one-season wonder

John Turner training for England
by Katya Witney 4 minute read

John Turner’s rapid rise to England contention ended almost as soon as it started.

“It was one of the best days ever that you dream about, getting that phone call,” he tells Wisden.com. “And then the next day it was taken away from me.”

Given a place in England’s T20I squad to face New Zealand, less than three months after making his debut in the format, Turner suffered a side strain during The Hundred which ruled him out of contention for an international debut.

“It was really frustrating and sad, and quite emotional,” says Turner. “It took me a while to understand what had actually happened and that I hadn’t got that opportunity.”

It’s not hard to see what drew England selectors’ eyes to Turner in the first place. In the preceding few weeks Turner had taken 21 wickets in his first 11 T20 Blast matches and sent down deliveries that were clocked above 90 mph. As ever when that magic number is crossed, interest began to swirl.

There was already noise around a raw, up-and-coming fast bowler at the Utilita Bowl last winter. Having signed for Hampshire in 2021 less than a year after moving to England from South Africa, Turner took 20 wickets in the 2022 One Day Cup, bowling with good pace. But over a winter spent in Southampton with bowling coach Graeme Welch, his speed ramped up even more.

“Last season, probably in early May, something just clicked,” says Turner. “All my timings in my action were right, my rhythm was right and suddenly I was letting it go quite quickly. And once you’ve got that confidence it just seems to build on top of that. It hasn’t been a long time that I’ve been really quick, but I’m really enjoying it.”

Turner’s inexperience is balanced with a vastly experienced bowling unit down at Hampshire. As far as a 22-year-old trying to navigate their way through the potentially volatile world of fast bowling, where injuries are common, he couldn’t ask for a much deeper pool to draw knowledge from.

“Abbo [Kyle Abbott], Barks [Keith Barker] and Mo Abbas, since I’ve been at Hampshire they’ve been really good to me,” says Turner. “They’ve taken me under their wing and helped to develop me into the bowler I am now. I’m hopefully looking at playing a bit more red-ball cricket with them [this season]… But just seeing how they go about their work, how they set up batters, set up a spell, all of that, it’s really good for me to learn and implement it into my game.”

The skill and experience of Hampshire’s red-ball bowling attack means Turner hasn’t yet been able to find a regular spot in the side. However, he took a five-for on first-class debut against a Sri Lanka development XI, which featured several players who have gone on to receive international honours. The potential he has across formats is something his teammates are quick to point out.

“He’s got great attributes and he’s very quick,” says Keith Barker, Turner’s Hampshire teammate. “He’s very strong and looks after himself, and he’s a good human being. Seeing the work that he’s put in, you can see he just wants to learn and develop as quickly as he can. And that makes it a lot easier to help someone because they want to learn and they’re willing to listen. So he’s really started to reap the rewards and I think he’s got a lot to give. I don’t think people have seen the best of him and he’s a really exciting player to watch.”

Despite pace being what elevated him to international standing, Turner is aware that development will be key to continuing the momentum he’s built.

“I need to keep my pace because that’s my point of difference,” he says. “But if I can implement a few of the skills that they [teammates] use that will aid the kind of bowler I am. Whether that’s swinging it a bit more, or a bit more wobble seam to get something off the wicket, I think it’s trying to figure out what’s best suited for certain conditions. I definitely can’t just rely on my pace, I’d get found out quite quickly if that was the case.”

After all the attention directed towards Turner this year, it shouldn’t be lost that he has yet to make his international debut. In fact, since his first England call-up in August 2023, Turner has played just one game of cricket – an impressive outing in the SA20 for Paarl Royals where his four overs cost just 30 runs.

After training with the England Lions in the UAE in November, Turner was selected for England’s post-World Cup white-ball tour to the Caribbean. Despite spending both the T20I and ODI series on the sidelines, following the disappointment of the New Zealand series, it was a validating experience.

“The first night we were there, I couldn’t quite believe I was in that environment,” says Turner. “Being able to spend time with guys who I’ve looked up to for a good part of the last eight years of my life, and being able to learn from them, gain experience and see how they go about it and what a step up it is to the international level was a really good step for if I hopefully get the opportunity to play.

“There’s probably a bit more pressure on me this season, I’ve now got something to live up to, a point to prove that I wasn’t a one-season wonder. But I’m just enjoying it all and taking it day by day. Everything’s new for me at the moment so I’m just trying to take it all in.”

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