Dominic Mark Bess
July 22, 1997, Exeter, Devon
Right hand bat
Right arm offbreak
Whatever ambitions Dom Bess had for the Championship season of 2016, he could never have imagined that his offspin would suddenly be regarded as a key component in Somerset's Championship challenge - a challenge only beaten off by Middlesex in the final session of the season. Life changed for Bess on one memorable day on a Taunton turner when 21 wickets fell and he found himself acknowledging the cheers of the crowd as he took 6 for 21 on Championship debut, including Warwickshire's former England pair Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott in successive balls. His figures were the best by a Somerset championship debutant since Tony Pearson took 7 for 63 against Worcestershire at the Imperial Athletic Ground in Bristol in 1961.
To underline that it was no fluke, he followed up with 5-43 against Nottinghamshire in Somerset's final match of the season to send them briefly top of the table, only to be passed by Middlesex on the final day. In only two Championship matches, Bess returned season's figures of 10 wickets at 10.46. All a far cry from his first-class debut against Pakistan in July but failed to take a wicket.
Those good impressions were underlined when, in tandem with Jack Leach, he was again a central part of Somerset's season in 2017, taking 36 wickets at 23.42, with Taunton by now nicknamed Ciderabad because of the responsiveness of its surfaces. Somerset beat Middlesex in the last game to stay up and both Leach and Bess won England Lions recognition. Bess was only 20, tempting Leach to comment: "I was still getting pissed at University at that age."
An even more extraordinary development was Bess' Test debut, at 20, against Pakistan in 2018 - the first sign that the new national selector, Ed Smith, had an appetite for a left-field pick. He showed up well enough, but with expectations suddenly higher, his form deserted him upon returning to Somerset and he found himself playing 2nd XI cricket later in the summer, which he later revealed had a major impact on his mental health.
In 2019, he found himself struggling for gametime with Leach still first-choice, and went on loan to Yorkshire in pursuit of regular cricket. That winter, he had just returned from an ECB spin camp in India when Jack Leach went down sick in South Africa, giving him the opportunity to fly out as a replacement. He quickly moved ahead of Matt Parkinson in the pecking order on tour, and performed admirably in the holding role in the second Test at Cape Town. At Port Elizabeth, he took his first Test five-for, and ended the tour with credit in the bank.
When England returned home for the 2020 summer after the Covid pandemic had delayed the season, his determination with the bat and liveliness in the field saw him preferred to Leach by England, though Somerset saw it differently and he left the club for Yorkshire at the end of the summer. Bess did well enough in a holding role without ever convincing, and in early 2021, found himself dropped three Tests into England's tour of Asia, with the team's management suggesting 17 wickets at 22 masked a lack of consistency that would be exposed in India. He returned to the side for the final Test short on confidence, leaking more than four runs an over, and later admitted he had started "hating cricket" amid the pressure of the bubble.
Bess is a offspinning all-rounder from Sidmouth in Devon. He signed a scholarship contract with Somerset, having joined the club's academy when he was 16 and has represented England Under-19s. Hundreds in the 2nd XI showed that he could hold a bat, too. He also spent the 2015-16 winter at Darren Lehmann's Adelaide academy. His explanation as to how he came to bowl offspin was a diverting one. "I was always a little porker when I was younger, so I never took the long run-up," he said. "I always took five or six steps and just trotted in."
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