July 25, 2013

Kerrigan becoming too hard to ignore

Kyle Hogg and Glen Chapple have taken the limelight recently with some formidable performances but it's Lancashire's young slow left arm spinner having the best season of his short career.

If Lancashire had built up a head of steam at the last time of writing, they're currently moving along like a Japanese bullet train. The momentum shift from steam engine to high-tech electric was initiated shortly after my last blog when (sticking with the Japanese theme) the ever reliable Glen Chappimoto and Kyle Hoggirami, Lancashire's Samurai duo, helped crush the league leaders Northants by eight wickets. Hogg sliced his way through seven scalps recording career best figures of 7 for 27, while Chapple cleaned up the other three wickets to skittle Northants for 62, from which they never recovered.

But it was neither Hogg nor Chapple who brought home the sushi in the two County Championship games that followed. Instead, it was Simon Shinobi Kerrigan's 20 wickets against Northants and Glamorgan that sent the Red Rose to the league summit. His masterful ninja-like displays in the second fixture against Northants deserve a special mention. When the swinging swords of Chapple's seam attack were rendered impotent by a placid wicket, the Kerrigano came into his own. Akin to the legendary 90's arcade classic in which Shinobi paralyzed enemies with shuriken, Kerrigan's accurate bowling had a similar effect on the Northants batsmen. He took 7 for 63 in 30 overs to reduce the home side to 241 in ideal batting conditions, and in the process help inflict a second eight-wicket defeat of their promotion rivals.

Was he satisfied? Did he say arigato and rest on his laurels for the next game against Glamorgan? Oh no he didn't, he only went and helped himself to twelve wickets, which deservedly catapulted him to the top of the league's wicket-taking charts. He now has 44 wickets at 19.72 apiece, and a strike rate below 47. Those are the kind of figures that'd make a Pulp Fiction-ing Samuel. L. Jackson say (If he was a cricket fan) "Mmmmmmmm that is a tasty bowler."

As if Lancashire sitting on top of the league and still in with a chance to win the other two domestic competitions wasn't exciting enough for their fans, the Ashes return to Old Trafford next week. Monday August 15, 2005 was the last time Lancastrians got a taste of the Ashes in the land of Mancunia. And boy was it hotter than a spicy vindaloo, a scintillating contest. And while next week's game is unlikely to reproduce that kind of finale, Lancashire fans have reason to get excited. Why? I'll tell you why because our little Kerrigano Ninja should be let loose on those Aussies, that's why. Kerrigan shouldn't be picked because he's in the form of his life. He shouldn't be picked only because the Old Trafford pitch is likely to spin sideways. No, he should be picked because if England place their faith in him, like they did with James Anderson, he has the potential to become world class. Words Peter Moores himself used two years ago, when the little maestro took the best figures by a Lancastrian, 9 for 51, since 1953 against Hampshire. There couldn't be a better time to introduce him to the England set up for a few reasons.

Firstly James Anderson's presence will bring out the best in Kerrigan. A decade or so ago it was a certain Freddie Flintoff who helped a quiet and reserved Burnley lad settle into the England dressing room. And any decent International captain will tell you, young players reach the stage of self-assurance required to become world class, in their own way. Some require the hairdryer treatment, while others need a killing-me-softly-with-a-song approach. Freddie's presence no doubt helped Anderson immeasurably in his early England days. If he's picked, Kerrigan who has a shy and reserved demeanour could find similar solace through Jimmy.

Secondly, Graeme Swann is currently one of the best spinners in world cricket; the experience of bowling with him at the highest level is the luxury England can afford to grant Kerrigan, the best spinner in county cricket presently. At 34, it's perhaps time for Swanny to become a cricketing Yoda and pass on his spin bowling jedi tricks to the next generation. Swann's best season in domestic cricket yielded 57 wickets at 28.78 a piece back in 1999, bringing him International recognition. Kerrigan is only 13 wickets behind that tally with six league games remaining this season, I wouldn't bet against him topping 60.

Like Swann, Kerrigan is an attacking spinner, always searching for wickets but, crucially, also possesses the discipline in line and length to keep the run rate down when things aren't going so well. Ashton Agar's selection by Australia was an act of desperation, a shot in the dark, England's selection of Kerrigan will be anything but. His name is in the hat on merit and it deserves recognition. So I urge thee oh Andy Flower, let a Red Rose blossom at Old Trafford next week, because for Lancashire fans it would be the cherry on a potential Ashes-clinching cake.

Rana Malook writes about cricket and music and once harboured dreams of appearing on ESPNcricinfo as a player until his back folded like warm laundry at the age of 19. He tweets here