Will Kerrigan pass his second Test?

I suspect nobody reading this can remember what they were doing on Wednesday August 21st 2013. However I bet that one man can. He’ll wish he can’t but I bet he never will forget. That man is cricketer Simon Kerrigan, then a 24-year old slow left arm spinner from Lancashire.
For on that day Kerrigan achieved the ambition of every cricket mad young boy in England. He made his Test debut for England. Not only that it was against Australia in the Ashes – in the fifth Test at the Oval. He must have been so happy. Until England captain Alistair Cook gave him the ball in the 21st over of Australia’s first innings. And then the nightmare begun.
Actually his first two deliveries went for singles. OK, nothing to worry about. But two of his next four – one a full toss – were hit for four by Australia’s Shane Watson. Ten off the first over. Not good. Surely his second over would be better?
Well no. it was worse. Much worse. Four of the six deliveries were hammered for four by Watson and another one went for two. Eighteen off the over leaving him with figures of 2-0-28-0. To make maters worse, most of the deliveries were short, slow long hops that I reckon EMMA Watson could have hit for four never mind Shane. To use cricket slang it was an over of “pies”. Worse he looked terrified.
Understandably, Cook had seen enough and dispatched him back to the outfield before inviting him to try and do better in the 56th over of Australia’s innings. However he did not do better. He didn’t concede as many runs – but that was only because Cook had men on the boundary to turn fours into ones and because some of his deliveries were so bad the batsmen couldn’t reach them to hit. Cricinfo – the world’s most popular cricket website – was typng the words “long hop” and “full toss” with depressing frequency and when he did land the ball on the spot he got an ironic cheer from the crowd. He only bowled eight overs in the day (for 53 runs) and his dream had turned into a living hell. Unsurprisingly Cook did not risk him for the remaining four days of a drawn match and he vanished from the scene like a minor character in a film. Which is what he was.
The press reaction was predictable. I still remember the front page of the Daily Telegraph’s sport section showed a picture of Kerrigan looking terrified with a headline “LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER”. The “Cricketer” magazine gave him a rating of 0 out of 10 for his performance (actually I was surprised he got that high a mark!) while the cricket bible Wisden said Watson was “swatting away some undistinguished deliveries as 28 came from his first two overs” also adding “he (Kerrigan) was a peripheral figure for the rest of the match” (Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack 2014, page 362). Everyone was agreed on one thing. Kerrigan would go down as a footnote in history. Just like Alan Butcher (1979), Paul Parker (1981) John Stephenson (1989) Neil Williams (1990) and Alan Wells (1995) he would play the last Test of the season fail and be banished to county cricket forever destined to be no more than a historical curiosity.
Until Sunday that is when Kerrigan – now 25- was named in England’s 14 man squad for the second Test against India at Lord’s to general astonishment. How did that happen? Well events went in his favour. England’s best spinner Grahame Swann retired the next best two Monty Panesar and James Tredwell can’t get into their county teams. Scott Borthwick and Moeen Ali have been tried and found wanting and England’s spin cupboard is like old Mother Hubbard’s…only barer. Add to that the fact that England’s coach Peter Moores was Kerrigan’s coach at Lancashire until this year and you have the reasons for his recall.
So the question is: If Kerrigan plays will he do any better? Well some great players have recovered from awful Test debuts. Len Hutton scored 0 and 1 on debut in 1937.And he did all right. Viv Richards (scored 4 and 3 in 1974), Graham Gooch (0 and 0 in 1975) Marvin Attapatu (0 and 0 in 1990) and Shane Warne (took 1-150 in 1992) all had bad debuts and became good or great Test players. But the omens for Kerrigan are not good. Today’s Daily Telegraph has the headline “Nervy Kerrigan fails Test dress rehearsal” and mentions that “two of Kerrigan’s first three bals were full tosses” an alarming reminder of what happened back in August last year. Add to this the fact that India’s batsmen are the best players of spin in the world and it doesn’t look good.
So the questions start to be asked. Will he get picked? If he is picked when will Cook bowl him? Will he cope with the pressure? if he bowls full tosses and long hops and India’s batsmen hammer him like Watson did will he fall apart again? How much rope will Cook give him? Oh and the eyes of every cricket fan in the UK will be on him with a mixture of hope and fear. The pressure on Kerrigan will be huge. But that is why we call it Test cricket…

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