Spinners turn to Jenner (3 February 1999)

3 February 1999

Spinners turn to Jenner

By Christopher Martin-Jenkins

THE first tangible sign that England are taking genuine steps to catch up rival nations in the match-winning art of wrist spin bowling came yesterday with the news that two talented 16-year-olds are to go to Australia for specialist coaching.

The two right-handed leg-spinners, who have both been on the fringe of England under-17 teams, were chosen after a sifting of more than 300 young bowlers organised throughout last year by the England and Wales Cricket Board.

Geraint Bowers from Crickhowell in Powys and Matthew Gitsham from Wembdon, Somerset, will travel to Adelaide on two £3,000 scholarships awarded by the Brian Johnston Memorial Trust. They will spend two weeks at the Australian Cricket Academy where Shane Warne refined his art under the eye of the former Australian leg-spinner Terry Jenner.

Jenner was one of the experts who helped English coaches to evaluate the young talent recommended to the ECB last year by the first-class and minor counties. The young bowlers thought to have particular ability were invited to attend regular sessions with specialist wrist-spinning coaches such as Robin Hobbs and Mushtaq Mohammed. The process is continuing this year with a view to sending two promising bowlers to Australia each year.

Brian Johnston scholarships and awards are normally given to young cricketers in financial need or to schools in deprived areas needing equipment but Chris Atkinson, the chief executive of the Trust, said that in view of the urgent need for leg-spinners and for batsmen to play with and against them, these special awards would pay dividends for all concerned.

Tim Boon, the former Leicestershire batsman, now the ECB's national coach in the south, will accompany the boys, partly to gain experience of the methods used at the Adelaide academy.

He said: "These two boys have tremendous promise and we are hoping that before long we will find a 'freak' like Warne: a once in a century bowler."

It is probably significant that both bowlers attend schools with a cricketing pedigree: Gitsham is at Queen's, Taunton and Bowers at Christ College, Brecon.

Source :: Electronic Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk)