Hartley has high hopes
6ft 4in spinner ready to rip it up for England
TOm HARTlEy will be much better prepared the next time he takes the field for England following a last- minute international debut two months ago.
lancashire’s lanky left- arm spinner has been identified as someone to be involved in both a post-World Cup reset and potentially a Test squad in India in the new year.
Hartley made his bow at Trent Bridge when luke Wood was struck down by tonsillitis on the morning of a one- day win over Ireland and the late call from limited-overs coach matthew mott caught the 24-year-old off guard
It meant his family — including father Bill, a former athlete who won a Commonwealth Games silver medal — were not present as Andrew Flintoff spoke for the first time in public since his Top Gear crash when handing over England’s 272nd one- day cap with words of encouragement.
‘motty called me at 8.30am,’ Hartley recalls. ‘I was walking to breakfast and his number came up. I had to take a double glance because I thought it was a bit weird. He was like, “you’re playing today”. I was like, “S***!”
‘my family had been quizzing me as to whether they should come down but I told them not to bother as I wasn’t going to play, so I texted them that morning with an “Oops”.
‘my girlfriend lauren was still asleep by the time I handed my phone in, so she had to drive down and get her own ticket. The rest of the family got to watch it on TV. Obviously it would’ve been nice for them to be around the huddle when Fred made his speech but you know…’
As Mail Sport revealed in September, 6ft 4in Hartley is on England’s radar for the five-Test tour of India despite a modest 2023 season with lancashire in which he claimed just 18 County Championship wickets in nine appearances at 45.22 runs each.
The selectors have looked past the raw statistics accumulated in home conditions, though. Hartley and Somerset rookie Shoaib Bashir have attributes that may suit the Subcontinent: a high release point, quicker than average pace for a spinnerner and consistent targetingg of the stumps.
So the pair will work under Graeme Swann
— one of two England lions mentors alongside Flintoff for a training camp in Abu Dhabi from Thursday — on how to exploit Asian pitchess that have a tendency to deteriorate or completelyely crumble.
‘Hopefully they will be similar to Indian wickets and it will allow us to practise the kind of stuff guys like Axar Patel and Ravindra Jadeja have been doing for years,’ says Hartley. ‘Firing it in, ball after ball.
‘The Indian lads obviously play spin really well but watching the Australians recently, Todd murphy made his debut there, so it is possible to be successful. It looks like the spinners are always
on top there, so if youyo can go in with that confidence against their players, then hopefully you shouldn’t go too far wrong.’
Before then, he will attempt to add to his family’s record of sporting success during December’s three-match ODI series against West Indies. In an echo of the athletics career of his dad — part of the England 4 x 400 metres relay team who came second in the 1974 Commonwealths — Hartley is something of a late bloomer. Fitting, given that he was born into a family florist business on merseyside.
‘ I used to be quite chubby. I didn’t hit puberty until late, so I was never the sports star as a kid,’ explains Hartley, who burst through at lancashire’s academy rather than in age-group teams.
As he discovered with his England debut, however, it is better late than never.