England Lions v Australia A, Old Trafford August 6, 2012

Studious Kerrigan works on his art

Paul Edwards at Old Trafford
Being on the end of Kevin Pietersen in full force can make or break a bowler. Simon Kerrigan just saw it has part of his learning curve

If Simon Kerrigan does fulfil the predictions of many good judges by one day playing Test matches for England, the media will do well to make a headline out of anything other than his cricket. Then again, they may not need to.

The quietly-dedicated slow left-armer, Kerrigan only made his Championship debut for Lancashire in 2010, but his performances since then have grabbed the headlines in a manner only international spinners tend to manage. What is more, perhaps, they have attracted high praise from shrewd judges. Last week Kerrigan claimed the 100th wicket of his first-class career; this week or next, he may make his four-day England Lions debut in an unofficial Test against Australia A. He is in the 13-man squad for the two-match series and despite the presence of fellow twirlers Samit Patel and James Tredwell, it would seem a little odd if he didn't get his chance either at Old Trafford or Edgbaston.

Yet while Kerrigan, 23, admits he is delighted to be in the Lions squad, it is entirely consonant with his approach to his cricket that he regards this week's match on his home ground as "just another game". To do anything else would be to risk losing the settled rhythm and calm approach that have served him so well in his brief but burgeoning career. He is already a technician, well versed in arts like drift, drop and loop which are essential items in a top-class spin bowler's tool-kit. While he concedes that it must be "very special" to make a Test debut in front of a full house at Lord's, as his Lions colleague Jonny Bairstow did earlier this summer, he knows that such experiences will only come about if he remains focused on his skills.

"I need to look short-term," he insisted. "It doesn't work for me to start thinking I need to do this or that today. If you go out thinking you have to impress the selectors you end up getting cluttered in your head. If I can perform in every game then, before I know it, things like being selected for an England Lions squad can happen for me."

And when they do happen, Kerrigan makes good use of the detailed preparation offered to England cricketers. For example, he has already studied a pen-drive of the eight wickets Ian Blackwell took against Australia A in Durham's victory over the tourists last week. But the ability to learn from his own and others' experiences is only one of the things which have impressed coaches like Lancashire's Peter Moores, who believes that Kerrigan has the qualities to cope with Test cricket.

"Simon's got an attacking mindset, he makes good decisions, he spins the ball hard, he's got a quick bowling arm, he gets the right shape on the ball and he gets good players out," said Moores. "His job is to become consistent and skilful and calm enough under pressure to deliver when it counts. If he does, he'll get his chance in international cricket. When it'll come I don't know, but he's certainly got the talent and the necessary qualities."

Moores is not alone in his assessment of the spinner. The ECB's national lead spin bowling coach Peter Such began working with Kerrigan three seasons ago and he too has been impressed with a cricketer who may not reach his peak for some years.

"Simon's got a very good attitude to the game, he works hard and he certainly puts a shift in whether he's practising or playing," said Such "Other attractive qualities about his cricket are that he has a strong mind and knows his game. He has clear ideas and plans, and those plans are based around his strengths. He's a very talented young spin bowler."

Yet for all that Kerrigan has taken 38 County Championship wickets this year, there have been days when he has been taken apart. The most notable of these was at Guildford when he encountered what might be seen as the spin bowler's perfect storm: a slow, flat wicket, a quick outfield, shortish boundaries - and Kevin Pietersen in his most destructive pomp. On that extraordinary Friday afternoon Pietersen made 234 not out off 190 balls and seven of his eight sixes were struck off Kerrigan's bowling. The slow left-armer's figures were 23-0-152-1.

Kerrigan's response to that onslaught impressed his coach. "Simon didn't back off the challenge," said Moores "He still wanted to bowl at KP, he still wanted to set attacking fields and that's part of his quality as a cricketer."

And on the following morning when it was clear that the final day of the game was to be lost to the weather, Kerrigan sought advice from a spinners' symposium of Mushtaq Ahmed, Murali Kartik and Ian Salisbury, all of whom offered advice as to how to deal with a world-class batsman on the rampage.

"One thing they said was give Pietersen a single and bowl at the other batsman, but that's easier said than done when he's hitting a four every other ball," observed Kerrigan. "They also told me to keep putting the ball in the right area and not worry about anything else. Even if a batsman does keep hitting you for six, he'll eventually make a mistake.

"I just had to keep going and going," he added "The only time you have been defeated as a bowler is if you have given in mentally and I felt like I didn't do that. I kept plugging away and I learnt a lot from it. If it happens again I will be more ready for it. In some ways it is good to know that I still have a long way to go to be where I want to be. But it was still nice to see Pietersen get that 149 at Headingley because at least that showed that it's not just me he's does it to."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 10, 2012, 0:03 GMT

    @Meety- to be honest mate I don't think RandyOz knows who Jim Laker even is, has never seen anyone in the England Lions play any form of cricket and really doesn't care. He is merely an ignoramus with a chip the size of Victoria on his shoulder regarding English cricket. An embarrassment really to the rest of us normal Aussie cricket lovers.

  • Dummy4 on August 8, 2012, 23:53 GMT

    To be honest, Kerrigan is decent, has got a lot of wickets in the County Championship, but I don't think he is all that, watched him bowl today, didn't really trouble the Batsmen, a few plays and misses, but when playing against players who can play spin decently, he doesn't look up to it, and don't say County Championship players play spin well, because half of them can't

  • Andrew on August 8, 2012, 12:10 GMT

    @CricketMaan - just so you know exactly what I meant. At one point in time, there was every reason to think that Harbhajan would eventually DWARF Murali's career wicket tally - he had everything going for him in that respect (except temprement). In some (no change that to many) ways he was the best off spinner (maybe even just spinner) in the period say 2001 to about 04. However, he has been dropped from the Indian team, his last 4 International seasons, he averaged 38 (S/R 77), 152 (263), 34 (71), 44 (90). In 2010/11 he averaged 37 with the bat & hit 2 100s. The CONTEXT that I was discussing Harbhajan in, was IMO - too much limited over cricket (ODI & T20) has possibly affected BOTH his AND other Indian bowlers Test match credentials. "...Test cricket in 10 yrs from now will only be played by Eng and Aus..." - totally disagree, the fact of the matter is, people have been writing off Test cricket for nearly 50 yrs, it will keep on going strong.

  • Samuel on August 8, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    Meety - Lancashire have been specifically developing Kerrigan for first class cricket; he doesn't really play 40 over cricket, let alone T20 cricket. Parry and Keedy usually get the nod in the shorter formats, so I'm not surprised to see Kerrigan playing 2nd XI games over limited overs stuff. He certainly impresses me more than Briggs, who is the complete opposite - he made his name through T20 performances, and you can see that through his bowling; flat, negative and designed to keep the runs down rather than look for wickets.

  • Sriram on August 8, 2012, 10:46 GMT

    @Meety - Harbhajan took 400 wkts and has played for over 13 yrs..yes he does have a moderate record overseas and is now done with his career, but wait how many years has Swann played. for a player to be considred good or to be compared he needs to be consistent and good for at least 10 years, Swann will never do that. That said Bhajji is no legend but to call him a batsman over a spinner is naive. And lastly, Test cricket in 10 yrs from now will only be played by Eng and Aus coz of Ashes and may be SA might join in, i cant see it being still played by other nations 10 yrs from now though would be happy to be proved wrong.

  • Andrew on August 8, 2012, 4:43 GMT

    @igorolman - he got you hook line & sinker! @landl47 - not something that easily proveable one way or the other, but if you look at India's dearth of quality spinners atm, combined with their love affair with short forms of cricket, it COULD be said that T20 is detrimental to a spinner's career in Tests. Swanny is an exception to the rule (assuming current form is either a blip or injury induced). Harbhajan Singh is more of a batsmen who bowls slow flat nudies wide of the stumps, & the other young spinners in India are nowhere near the past legacy. ATM - Oz are keeping Lyon away from heavy involvement in short forms (at least Internationally) - which I think is great!

  • Matt on August 7, 2012, 12:03 GMT

    Sorry, folks, I don't usually bite, but this is too ridiculous to let go. Manchester 1956, J.C. Laker 19-90. @RandyOZ: Can you remind me who the opposition were?

  • Randolph on August 7, 2012, 9:35 GMT

    Considering how badly Swann is going, they need him soon. Considering England has never produced a good spinner though it might be back to the tried and trusted way of poaching (Dockerill). Hopefully he doesnt give in like KP.

  • John on August 7, 2012, 5:33 GMT

    What I like about the description of Kerrigan given by Moores is 'spins the ball hard'. Bowlers who don't do much and just bowl tight are not going to take many wickets at top level. Swann has another 2-3 years left which should be just right for bowlers like Kerrigan, Borthwick and Briggs. It's good to see some competition, too. @Meety: I don't know either, but I hope he won't play too much T20. Bowling to keep the runs down with no fielders near the bat is terrible training for a young test prospect.

  • Andrew on August 7, 2012, 0:44 GMT

    I find it interesting that he didn't play in the English T20 comp, although he played some 2nd XI games. Dunno whether that was by choice or design.

  • No featured comments at the moment.