After taking match numbers of 7-68 against New Zealand at Lord’s, Matthew Potts couldn’t have asked for a better Test start in an England shirt. The Durham tailor has been included in the squad thanks to a jaw-dropping County Championship campaign, where he has already won 35 wickets.
8-4-8-3. These were Matthew Potts’ opening numbers after diving for the first time in Test cricket for England at Lord’s against reigning world champions New Zealand last week.
In fact, Potts’ first test wicket came in the opening, that too from Kane Williamson‘s, the third best batsman in the world right now according to ICC rankings. Then he baffled Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell in a four over spread before coming back to trap Ajaz Patel front leg. When he left the field after the first end, his numbers read 9.2-4-13-4. If he hadn’t suffered from a cramp at the end of the match, he could have ended up with a five for.
On Ben Stokes‘ first game as permanent captain, the 23-year-old Potts broke into the line-up ahead of Craig Overton, who was seen as a favorite to join the pace attack alongside the forever youngsters James Anderson and Stuart Council. Overton’s inclusion was particularly considered due to the absence of injured Ollie Robinson.
— ICC (@ICC) June 2, 2022
Potts came into the limelight in 2019, when he captured 17 wickets in his first T20 blast season for Durham. He continued to do a fine job in whiteball cricket while representing Durham in the National Tour, as well as for the Northern Superchargers in the Hundred last year.
It’s fair to say that it wasn’t enough for someone to get a test cap. So what was the reason for Potts’ award?
For Durham, Potts had been in scintillating form in the Division 2 County Championship earlier this year. At an average of 18.57, he took 35 scalps in six matches, five more than second-placed Toby Roland-Jones in the wicket-taker standings. With Stokes also representing Durham on the National Tour, it was likely his call to bring the youngster into the mix.
Potts’ numbers in the second round (20-3-55-3) of the Lord’s Test weren’t as impressive as in the first. Still, that included another dismissal from Williamson, along with dangerous Tom Latham and tailender Ajaz.
— ICC (@ICC) June 3, 2022
Of all his tricks, Potts’ best skill is his ability to swing the ball back and forth. Right now, only a few can do it, regardless of the game conditions. He has a knack for taking risks to achieve breakthroughs by executing his plans to perfection.
Safe to say, Potts’ fiery opening spell at Lord’s turned the game around, irrevocably shifting the momentum in England’s favor before Joe Rootformer England captain, came, saw and conquered the New Zealand attack.
It has always been difficult to be a fast bowler, especially in the long run. Potts has the two best possible inspirations in Broad and Anderson, and he doesn’t have to look back from now on.
– Match test special (@bbctms) June 2, 2022
While talking about Potts’ life as a cricketer, Durham bowling coach Neil Killeen shared an interesting story with the BBC. “He (Potts) puffed out his chest like he does. You would have thought he had been in the dressing room for 15 years,” Killeen told the BBC.
“He was right in conversations with senior players, telling everyone how they should be bowling, batting or pitching. We had to say, “Matthew is just finding your place, mate.” He is not quietly confident. He is very confident, but he is not an “arrogant confident”. It’s just the way he stands.
No wonder Rob Key, the new England men’s cricket general manager, called Potts a ‘point of difference’ ahead of the Test series against New Zealand.
Potts doesn’t have a fast pace like Mark Wood, England’s fastest bowler, but he can hit over 85mph consistently. His biggest challenge would be to stay fit and well, as there have been many instances in the past where fast bowlers, due to injury issues, have failed to live up to expectations.
In the same conversation with the BBC, Killeen further explained why he rated Potts so highly. “He will run and hit hard on the pitch. He will definitely step into the battle and make it as uncomfortable as possible. He’s not the one twittering the drummer. He is the one who delivers the ball in awkward positions. He did it relentlessly all summer long,” added Killeen.
“He’s right up there with those names. His bowling spells and matches this year are some of the best shows I have seen at Durham and this is my 30th year as a player and manager.”
Potts’ success at Lord’s, where he had never even played first class before, was underpinned by his pinpoint length. Anderson and Broad still showing no signs of slowing down, he could lose his spot once Robinson returns. However, England were desperate for a few setters who could fill their two main wicket gaps. Potts, at this point, was definitely considered one for the future.
Let’s hope Potts continues to shine on the biggest stage of them all to help Stokes and Brendon McCullumthe new head coach of the England test team, makes the revolution.
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