'My goal in training is to knock Leach off the No. 1 spot' - Dom Bess

Jack Leach and Dom Bess trained with the Test squad Getty Images

After a head-spinning summer that saw him question the direction of his career after going from the England Test team to Somerset's second XI in the space of a month, Dom Bess says that it was one particular moment during the England Lions training camp ahead of the upcoming series against Pakistan A that helped him find clarity of thought.

It came during a squad meeting in which motivation and goal visualisation were the topics.

"A couple of boys came up with a great scenario in which, when you finish your career, you have all your caps lined up, from under-10s, club cricket, county cricket, all the way through your career," Bess said.

"The last one you have is your England Test cap, which for me is the pinnacle of the sport. You ask yourself the question: do you want that England cap to look brand new or look like the other caps that have seen so much hard work and sweat and tears?

"That's the thing that really got me. Some of the caps I've got have had a lot of hard sweat and tears gone into them and I want to make sure at the end of my career that my England cap has seen a lot of sweat, and a lot of champagne hopefully, so it's just like the others."

The 21-year-old off-spinner tells the story of his roller-coaster season, his relationship with county team-mate Jack Leach, and his feeling that he may have to leave Somerset to fulfil his ambitions, with extraordinary candour.

In his words, he had a season with an "Everest followed by a massive descent". Both were linked with the fortunes of his team-mate Leach, whose place he took when he made his Test debut against Pakistan at Lord's in May after Leach had broken his thumb.

Bess made a favourable impression. He took no wickets at Lord's but scored a remarkable 57 batting at No 8 to stave off an innings defeat, following up with 49 as nightwatchman in the second Test at Headingley and 3 for 33 as England bowled Pakistan out for an innings victory.

The rapid descent came at Worcester at the beginning of July, just four weeks after walking off the field as a Test winner.

"We had a game at New Road," he said. "Leachy hadn't played. He'd been out with concussion and had had a broken thumb and I thought I was potentially the option but they picked Leachy. I'll admit that I struggled with that decision.

"I had to go back and play in the second XI. It was like going from Lord's in front of 30,000 people to Taunton Vale in front of a man and his dog."

Bess is not part of Somerset's white-ball teams so the second XI became his domain for the next six weeks. He played for the senior team only twice more.

"It was tough at times," he said. "I had a lot of what you would say were honest conversations with Jason Kerr [head coach] and Andy Hurry [director of cricket] in which at times we disagreed with each other.

"But actually we finished second in the Championship and everything we do is for Somerset so looking back it was a decision that was made and there is no point in sobbing about it. That's professional sport."

Now Leach is back in the Test team but Bess smiles at the suggestion that people looking from the outside might expect that he secretly wants his rival to fail.

"You can't start to think that way," he said. "If you did it would just get toxic. This is professional sport and you have to remember that at the end of the day it is about the team.

"We are good mates. I'm buzzing that he's having success and taking wickets. It's a fascinating relationship because when we are on the field we don't compete against each other, we play together, we bowl together, for the team. Yet in training my goal is to knock him off the No 1 spot."

Yet he accepts that, at Taunton, he may never be No 1, which leads inevitably to questions about where his future might be.

"I'm contracted for next year and the year after. I love Somerset. They have always given me the opportunity, but if I am not progressing to where I want to be... At some point I feel I will have to be No 1 somewhere.

"I know I'm young and people say I should be patient but when I look back on my career, do I want to be a good county cricketer who was patient and sat behind somebody like Leachy for a while, or do I want to have seven, eight, 10 years playing for England? Or at least give myself the opportunity to have that?"

The first chance to further those ambitions comes now, as England Lions depart for the UAE.

"For me this is a hell of an opportunity for wickets and runs after not playing in the Somerset side, but also to contribute in a Lions side with some exciting young players but also a lot of experience.

"I have gone away and got my head space right and now I'm back on it. I've got a really strong fire in my chest now to play England cricket."