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Matthew Potts, quick who 'makes things happen', latest off northeast production line

Rob Key and Mark Wood excited by prospect of Durham bowler making England debut

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
19-May-2022
Matthew Potts trained at Lord's on Thursday, Middlesex vs Durham, County Championship Division Two, Day 1, May 19, 2022

Matthew Potts training at Lord's on Thursday  •  Getty Images

Midway through Matthew Potts' nets session on Thursday morning, Eoin Morgan walked over to shake his hand to congratulate him on his first call-up to a full England squad. With England only picked 13 players to cover the first two Tests against New Zealand, Potts is almost certain to make his debut at some stage during the series and has a strong chance of playing at Lord's in two weeks' time.
Sensibly, he decided to sit out this week's Championship fixture against Middlesex, having bowled 233.5 overs in six back-to-back games at the start of the season - 20 more than any other seamer in the country this year. Instead, he was put through his paces by Neil Killeen, Durham's bowling coach, before soaking up the atmosphere of a four-day game at Lord's for the first time (his only career appearance there came in the Hundred last summer).
Potts has been the beneficiary of an England injury crisis, with swathes of more-experienced seamers ruled out of the first Test, and has emerged from left field on the back of a stunning start to the Championship season: he took 35 wickets at 18.57 across the first half-dozen rounds, 11 more than the nearest contender.
"With these balls being a little bit softer and not lasting as long, the only thing that I've been doing is charging in every single ball, looking to hit that pitch hard and trying to extract whatever we can out of it," Potts said after his 11-wicket haul against Glamorgan last week.
Speaking after Wednesday's squad announcement, Rob Key, England's managing director, said he "likes the look" of Potts. "I'm pretty excited by what he offers. We see him as a point of difference. You see the way he runs in, the way that it looks like if you're facing him, you're in a proper contest… these are the picks I get really excited about."
He has found an influential admirer in the Durham dressing room, too, in the form of England's new captain. "Ben Stokes has seen him close at hand," Key said. "That's one thing that really stood out when people are talking about him: there's a lot of people who can run in and get the ball down there at various different paces but it's the character, really."
Potts acknowledged the importance of Stokes' support. "It's nice to have him in the dressing room and at mid-off," he said. "It's nice to have him to chat to, to talk to about ideas and how to get batsmen out. It's nice knowing you've got someone in your camp that's in there. The future is bright for Durham: if you're aspiring to be an England cricketer, you've got the right man in the dressing room."
Potts is not an out-and-out fast bowler and though he has never struggled for pace - he reached a top speed of 89mph/143kph in the Hundred last summer, according to CricViz - he believes that he been able to sustain it better this season. "I'm not necessarily quicker [than last year] I don't think - maybe a fraction," he said. "But the pace is there for a longer period of time; each spell is at that pace, rather than having a little drop-off."
"He's a good prospect," Mark Wood, his Durham team-mate, said. "Honestly, he's someone that's gone under the radar a little bit but he's a proper bowler - another one off the Durham academy, so we're doing okay there.
"He's a big strong lad, built a bit like a tank. He's really fit, constantly running in and makes things happen. The thing I would say about him is that he has a knack, when you think nothing is happening, he gets a wicket. That's a great knack to have. He's built a bit bigger than me and his injury record is a bit better: if he gets in there, he might stay in there."
Potts has been on England's radar for a number of years - he played in the Under-17s 'Super Fours' tournament at Loughborough in 2016 and made a handful of appearances for England Under-19s - but it looked for a while as though he would become a white-ball bowler: he was a reserve for the T20I tour to the Caribbean in January and was an unused back-up overseas player when Lahore Qalandars won the PSL.
But after missing out on selection for Durham's squad, let alone team, at the start of the Championship season in 2021, he has made significant strides. "Previously I've been just a white-ball bowler and I aspire to be something different to that: I want to be an all-format bowler," he said. "I'm just on the way up in the red-ball game."
As Wood alluded to, his selection represents another success for the northeast's production line. Potts attended the same comprehensive school in Sunderland as Jordan Pickford, the England goalkeeper, and has played for Durham since a young age. "We have good talent in the northeast," Potts said. "The future is bright for players coming through."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98