Dom Bess on England, the Ashes, spin bowling and his fondness for ‘the chat


Dom Bess made his Test debut at Lord’s in 2018, aged just 20

Like everyone, England spinner Dom Bess is itching to get out and play cricket again.

Especially since his PlayStation broke early on in lockdown.

“That was a blow,” concedes Bess. “I’ve ordered a new one but obviously it’s taking a while to come. It’s been a blessing in disguise though because I’ve managed to do a lot of reading instead.”

Bess, 22, is not long back from helping England to a Test series win in South Africa, swiftly followed by playing in England Lions’ victory in an unofficial Test against Australia – the first time an England ‘A’ or Lions side have beaten their Australian counterparts down under.

“They put out a good side with some very good players and to beat them in their own conditions was great and a confidence boost for those who might be involved in an Ashes tour there in two years’ time,” says Bess.

Ah, the Ashes… it doesn’t take long to get round to talk of England versus Australia, and Bess is somebody who thrives on the type of pressure that comes with competing for sport’s most famous urn.

On his County Championship debut for Somerset he took 6-21, including the wickets of England legends Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell.

Then, on his Test debut, aged just 21, he defied a rampant Pakistan bowling attack to score a half-century batting at number eight.

England lost that Test heavily but Bess won more admirers in an innings victory in the next game, scoring 49 as nightwatchman and chipping in with three second-innings wickets.

Since then, he’s picked up a maiden Test five-wicket haul in South Africa.

“I love the battle, I have no fear,” says Bess, when asked about his animated on-field personality.

Dom Bess has taken 11 wickets in his four Tests so far, and averages almost 19 with the bat

It’s the little things which mark Bess out as something different: the on-field jokes he shares with team-mates, the aggression he shows the opposition and the little tricks he comes up with on the spur of the moment to put them off.

During the South Africa series, Bess stuck out his non-bowling arm in his delivery stride in one attempt to unsettle the batsman. On another day, he rolled the ball back to the keeper with a cheeky glint in his eye that warned the batsman not to stray out of his crease just yet.

Bess can’t recall either incident – it’s all part and parcel of trying to win cricket games.

“I can’t knock people’s heads off with pace so I have to create an intensity in a different way,” he explains.

“I like the chat and I like to play on a batsman’s ego. If I can say something which gets a reaction, great.

“I do it a lot in county cricket. I’m close friends with Lancashire’s Alex Davies and a few times I’ve tried to get stuck into him.

“He won’t say a word back until he’s reached 30 or 40 and then he comes back hard – both with the bat and when he’s keeping behind the stumps later in the game.

“I like that side of the game.”

England have fostered a ‘band of brothers’ in recent times, a group of cricketers who have grown up together, progressed through the age groups and are now forcing their way into the Test team.

Bess speaks fondly of his cohort – players such as Davies, Saqib Mahmood, the Parkinson brothers, the Currans, Ollie Pope, Tom Moores, Amar Verdi and Dan Lawrence.

Many of them are now breaking into the England set-ups.

“Our generation is the first one that grew up with the heavy influence of white-ball cricket,” says Bess. “We’re not afraid to play our shots and try different things with the ball.

“We’ve all grown up together, played against each other for a decade or so, and now we’re spending winters together on different tours, whether that be for England, the Lions or specialist spin camps in India.”

Dom Bess has been playing cricket with and against the likes of Sam Curran, left, since the age of 10

It’s on one of those spin camps that Bess met Sri Lanka’s Rangana Herath, a man with 433 Test wickets.

“Being around Herath was amazing,” says Bess, who also reserves special praise for England Lions coach Richard Dawson and England performance director Mo Bobat.

“It was great to hear him talk about how to apply your skills in game situations, what fields to set, how accurate and fast you deliver the ball in different parts of the world, when to use your variations.

“It’s the little things that might sound obvious but it’s great to hear them from somebody who has taken so many Test wickets.

“Like, if the ball isn’t spinning, don’t be afraid to change the position of it in your hand.”

But what if Australia are 300-2 in Brisbane and Steve Smith is 120 not out? What then?

“I see that as a great challenge,” says Bess. “Can I pick up wickets by spinning the ball through the gate? Or by getting it to bounce more? By hitting the gloves harder? By beating people on their outside edge?

“It’s all about your persona. I look at somebody like Nathan Lyon. Everybody knows that when he gets the ball in his hand, he’s going to be dangerous. That’s a trait I want to have.”

Bess could be the man England turn to on a raging turner in India this winter, or as a foil for their fast bowlers in Australia in 18 months’ time.

For now though, it’s back to the books, the fitness routines and, pretty soon, the PlayStation.


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