The Som­er­set spin sen­sa­tion talks about his stun­ning de­but

Jeremy Black­more speaks to Som­er­set spin sen­sa­tion Dom Bess about his in­cred­i­ble Cham­pi­onship de­but

The Cricket Paper - - ENGLAND TOUR OF BANGLADESH - Dom Bess

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

PIC­TURES: Getty Images

De­but hero: Dom Bess cel­e­brates with Som­er­set team-mates after tak­ing an­other War­wick­shire wicket

Spin twin: Jack Leach, third left, earns the plau­dits

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