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Dan Lawrence’s off spin rekindles his Test ambitions

Dan Lawrence bowling offspin

Dan Lawrence bowling offspin

Lawrence’s wickets included both Somerset openers – Getty Images/Ben Hoskins

When Dan Lawrence explained that moving from Essex to Surrey would allow him to bowl more, there was some bewilderment. Lawrence’s status as among the most exciting batsmen in England is not in doubt, but his off spin yielded only 15 wickets in 104 first-class games for Essex.

Yet this modest record did not stop Gareth Batty, Surrey’s head coach, from declaring that Lawrence could become a “genuine all-rounder”. After working closely with Batty on his off spin in the close season and start of the summer, the sight of Lawrence being given the new ball, when Somerset began their second innings on day three, illustrated the extent of Surrey’s faith.

Lawrence has a quirky action, almost seeming to bowl off the wrong foot, but he generates real turn and flight. And he evidently possesses what too many top-order batsmen lack: the desire to work on their secondary skill. Lawrence recognises how, given that logjam in England’s middle order, his spin could help him add to his 11 Test caps. For all his flair, none of those have come under the Ben Stokes-Brendon McCullum regime.

Trailing by 143 runs on first innings, Somerset were confronted with an awkward 10-minute period before lunch. Rory Burns, Surrey’s captain, decided to entrust Lawrence with the second over, perhaps hoping that he could turn the ball away from left-hander Matt Renshaw. Instead, right-hander Sean Dickson flicked a delivery that turned sharply behind; characteristically, Ben Foakes made a taxing chance seem routine.

Persisted with after lunch, Lawrence did indeed get Renshaw, leg-before attempting a sweep. Batsman and bowler alike are at similar junctures of their career: both are out of their international sides, with a Test batting average of 29. But Lawrence’s off spin gives him a better immediate prospect of winning a recall.

When England beat Pakistan two years ago, Will Jacks played a crucial role as a top-order batsman who also bowled off spin. Lawrence is eyeing up the same role when England return to Pakistan in October. How he and Jacks dovetail at Surrey, once Jacks has returned from the Indian Premier League and Twenty20 World Cup duty, could have repercussions well beyond south London. Lawrence will also hope to move up from his current berth of No 6 at Surrey; he could well deputise for Ollie Pope at No 3 later in the season.

By adding the wicket of James Rew, superbly caught at slip, Lawrence ensured that Surrey remain on course for victory: at 204 for six, Somerset’s lead is only 61 runs. Maintaining his control throughout his 19 overs, Lawrence backed up his four for 91 at Old Trafford last week. The presence of the outstanding Simon Harmer at Essex meant that Lawrence would never have got some opportunities at his home club. Seven first-class wickets this season are already more than in any previous season of his first-class career.

For all the grumbling about the use of the Kookaburra ball, its impact on Surrey’s bowling attack is unmistakable. With Cameron Steel again turning his leg breaks considerably, with the occasional googly thrown in, Surrey have already taken 18 wickets with spin this season: more than in the entire 2023 County Championship season. In this sense, at least, the Kookaburra experiment is working as intended.

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