Gregory prospers in bowlers' graveyard
Taunton is billed as the bowlers' graveyard but Lewis Gregory has overcome one of the most batsman-friendly venues in the country to earn an unexpected call up for England's ODI against Ireland next week.
Gregory, who will turn 23 a fortnight after the match, has quietly developed his right-arm seamers in the West Country, progressing up the land from his home in Plymouth, where he first played for Devon age-groups, to Taunton for a 2nd XI debut in 2008 aged 16, and this winter a little further to Loughborough, as part of the Potential England Performance Programme, where he worked with Kevin Shine, the ECB lead bowling coach, and Neil Killeen, Durham's bowling coach who also leads the PEPP.
Shine was at Taunton on the second day of the current Championship match to watch Gregory take four wickets, to which he added two more on the third morning to celebrate his call up by equalling his best haul in a first-class innings.
That career best, 6 for 47, came last year at Northampton during a bright start to the season. A hamstring injury suffered while batting contributed to him playing only nine Championship matches in 2014 but he still returned an impressive 43 wickets at 26.06.
More pertinently for Gregory's ODI call up, his overall List A record is healthy: 39 wickets at 26.43, including 13 at just 14.92 in 2011 when he was only 20. He has since developed under the guidance of Jason Kerr, the Somerset bowling coach, and now Matthew Maynard, who joined as the new director of cricket over the winter.
"He's a very exciting young cricketer," Maynard told ESPNcricinfo. "He does all three skills exceptionally well. The call up is reward for the hard work he has put in over the past few years and a lot of credit must go to Jason Kerr who has seen him through the academy.
"He just does great things. He's got that uncanny knack of getting a wicket when you need it. I haven't seen the best of his batting yet but when we've done the Twenty20 practice, and game scenarios, he has struck the ball very well. He's very athletic in the field too and takes some great catches. He's a very talented cricketer. I'm delighted for him and I hope he gets his opportunity."
Gregory is reputed to be a better batsman than bowler but it is his form with the ball that has caught the eye and he will hope to complete his week by leading Somerset to a final-day victory over Middlesex. He said: "It's hugely exciting and a massive honour. I'm absolutely buzzing at the moment. Last year was really good for me and it's been a solid start to this summer so far. I'm really happy with where my cricket is at the moment and hopefully I can go there and show what I can do. I'm very excited and looking forward to it.
"It was a really nice surprise. Matt Maynard took me to one side last night and told me the news and needless to say I was really chuffed. It's a huge opportunity and I can't wait to see what I can do on the big stage. I'm going to go out there, enjoy myself and do what I do here for Somerset."
Alex Winter is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo He tweets here