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

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  • Ohhhh on July 28, 2013, 17:11 GMT

    Kerrigan doesn't really give the ball a rip and on some roads which don't turn he's going to be hit very hard, as KP did to him last year! Absolutely battered Kerrigan on a road at Guildford. Kerrigan needs to get more revs on it like Swanny. Good prospect though, can always act as the holding bowler a la Giles.

  • Dummy4 on July 28, 2013, 9:31 GMT

    All I will say is that, to me, Kerrigan's dreadful action looks ripe for a breakdown under pressure. Takes a lot of wickets though.

  • John on July 28, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    I like Kerrigan, but there's a huge difference between bowling in the 2nd division of the county championship when all the best batsmen in the world are playing international cricket and bowling in test matches. Swann was brought into the England set-up early, found wanting and didn't get back in until he was 29. Kerrigan has lots of time; he needs to keep working on his variations, keeping batsmen quiet on flat wickets and working out how to attack batsmen's weaknesses.

    He's a better bowler than Swann was at his age and look how good Swann is now. If he keeps improving, his time will come.

  • Richard on July 26, 2013, 10:52 GMT

    I would imagine Swann is probably looking to stay around until the Ashes series of 2015. He's a very fit cricketer, and his relatively late introduction to international cricket would, I assume, mean that he's keen to keep going as long as possible. We have no urgent need to worry about replacing him.

    That said, Kerrigan seems to be streets ahead of the other young spinners in the country. Borthwick and Rashid seem to want to primarily be known as batsman these days, Briggs has gone backwards, and Azeem Rafiq seems injury prone. Tredwell and Monty aren't getting any younger, and with the latter, you get the impression that he's never going to quite put together enough quality performances on a consistent level to be a number one spinner for a good Test team. So taking Kerrigan to Australia this winter makes very good sense.

  • Dummy4 on July 25, 2013, 18:47 GMT

    I was there at Aigburth for his 9 for 51 figures and he is superb. Remember, those figures where two years ago when Lancs were on their way to win the Championship. He may be in the second division now but he's only getting better.

  • Peter on July 25, 2013, 17:02 GMT

    Panesar is not getting any younger, I think he's already 32. He's also never going to be more than a second spinner to be used when Swann gets injured or when England go to India for a series. If England are looking to the future to who will replace Swann long term then this guy is it. They might as well start giving him a taster of being around the England set up even if it's nothing more than bringing on the drinks and being a sub fielder

  • Samuel on July 25, 2013, 15:39 GMT

    Definitely agree about Kerrigan. Worth pointing out a lot of his wickets have come in the second division on helpful wickets, but he just seems a class above: also, young players of any sort need encouragement as youngsters, so seeing the ball rip past the bat is never a bad thing for a young spinner. I don't think England will go in with 2 spinners at Old Trafford - maybe at The Oval they will - but they could definitely do worse than bring a second spinner into the squad to give themselves the option. Finn needs bowling away from Tests and they never seem to be serious about picking Onions, so what's the point of dragging him around the country? Whether they would skip over Panesar and go straight for Kerrigan is another matter - on form they definitely should as Monty's not been great so far this season, but I feel it would be harsh on him when he only had one poor tour on unhelpful wickets in NZ and seems to be at his best when bowling with Swann.

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