The Somerset spin sensation talks about his stunning debut
Jeremy Blackmore speaks to Somerset spin sensation Dom Bess about his incredible Championship debut
As starts to a cricket career go, it doesn’t come much more dramatic than the month teenage spin sensation Dom Bess has just enjoyed. The Devon-born off-spinner played a key role in Somerset’s late season title challenge, claiming two five-wicket hauls in as many games. At times it was almost impossible to take in; such was the immediate impact he made. “It’s been such a crazy month and almost at the time I couldn’t really comprehend what was happening – potentially winning the County Championship when I’d only played two games! What is going on here?” He may well ask. Making his Championship debut against Warwickshire in September, Bess, 19, found himself bowling sooner than expected on day one after Somerset were skittled out. They were batting again by the close as he spun the visitors out with astonishing figures of 6-28. Even seasoned veterans had no answer; Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell falling to consecutive deliveries. “It all happened so quickly and to take 6-28 on debut was a special feeling,” Bess reflected. “The best part was getting the boys back into the game because that was a must-win game. “I remember getting Trott and not really thinking ‘this is Bell’s first ball’. I was just thinking ‘just bowl your best ball’ and he came down and luckily it spat a bit and caught the inside edge and came back to me in the air. All I was thinking was ‘just catch it, don’t drop a dolly now!’ More importantly we got them as soon as possible without doing any damage.” Bess can’t understate the importance of the pressure he and Jack Leach have been able to exert by bowling in tandem. “We’ve got a great relationship. If you keep building pressure there’s always something going to happen.We just kept staying patient and things happened very quickly. To have him down the other end is massive for me.” Bess and Leach are among those who have benefited from the ECB’s drive to encourage surfaces that offer assistance to spinners. “The thing we really relish is that when those wickets are produced there is added pressure on you to perform. I wanted to give it my best crack and just enjoy it and take that pressure and use it as a positive. It couldn’t have gone much better.”
Bess resumed his partnership with Leach for Somerset’s final match against Nottinghamshire. In a week of high drama, his county ultimately finished second in the Championship. Bess rates his five-wicket haul in that game as even more important.
“I just wanted to get in the game and show the guys that I can back it up and more importantly show myself that I can play at this level. I’m definitely getting that confidence now and the belief I have is growing stronger.”
How have the side come to terms with getting so close to winning Somerset’s maiden Championship?
“The best thing is we brought so much momentum to the end of the season which was almost unstoppable.You can’t ask for much better. The squad has got, and will get, a lot closer. Everyone backs everyone and we’ve got a real good group of people with youth and the older lads.”
Born into a close family, steeped in south-west sport, cricket has been ever present. His grandfather played for Sidmouth and, as well as cricket, his father and uncle also played rugby for Exeter and Bath. Of his cousins, Josh and Zac play for Devon, while Luke captains Sidmouth.
“It’s always been a pretty competitive family that only strives for the best. That’s a massive factor in where I am. My com-
The best thing is that we brought so much momentum to the end of the season which was almost unstoppable. You can’t ask for better.
petitive nature is definitely down to those garden cricket and rugby games where all we wanted to do was win.”
His first cricketing memory was watching his cousins at Sidmouth where he played his first games before moving to Exeter and later being offered a place on the Somerset academy.
This season brought a first-class debut against the touring Pakistanis and a maiden T20 appearance. In a whirlwind summer, Bess then made his international debut, playing three ODIs for England U19s before the dramatic finish to the Championship. His season culminated in the award of a first professional contract.
A second consecutive winter now awaits at the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide, where he’ll also play grade cricket.
“It was a massive positive in my development as a cricketer and as a person, going out there last winter. I tried to take every opportunity with both hands. The standard is awesome. I love the competitive nature. They’re very hard, which makes the cricket a lot better; it challenges you and brings you out of your comfort zone.
“That helped massively this season, because I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but having those experiences almost made my decisions and thought processes a lot easier.”
Bess worked closely with former Test spinner Peter Sleep and learned a lot from bowling on Australia’s flatter wickets.
“Peter talks a lot about how over there you have to almost deceive the batsmen in the air and that helped me a lot coming back here because if you can get the ball doing all sorts in the air and then if you can get it turning as well it makes it a lot harder.”
Leach learned a similar lesson in Australia last winter and the dual threat the pair offer will be an important part in Somerset’s armoury in seasons ahead.
Star pupil: Dom Bess bowling for Somerset. Inset: Peter Sleep
Debut hero: Dom Bess celebrates with Somerset team-mates after taking another Warwickshire wicket
Spin twin: Jack Leach, third left, earns the plaudits