Matthew Potts got Kane Williamson as his first Test wicket. He dismissed Kane Williamson in the both innings of Lord's Test.
One of the main reasons for the recent travails of England in Test cricket has been their batting but their bowling too in some vital cases hasn’t remained immune from criticism. Undoubtedly, England have struggled due to their poor batting up the order but the over-dependence on veterans, Stuart Broad and James Anderson, who don’t have much fuel left in their tank, may end up putting more pressure on them when the two giants are more or less set to bow out of international cricket.
The endless list of injuries plaguing England bowlers threatens to burden newly appointed captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum. From Jofra Archer, Tom Curran, Ollie Robbinson, Olly Stone, Sam Curran to freshly added Matthew Fisher and Saqib Mahmood, all have been down with back injuries at a time when Chris Woakes (shoulder & knee) and Mark Wood (elbow) too are down with various issues.
Matthew Potts: The talented and confident Durham kid
“He is not quietly confident. He is very confident,” Durham’s batting coach Neil Killeen said about young Matthew Potts who has also played for England at the U-19 level. “It’s not an ‘arrogant confident’; It’s just the way he holds himself.”
The self-belief besides helping him in achieving his dreams has also put him in trouble in the past - sometimes painfully but that has failed to break his mental barrier. Ash Thorpe, who played with Potts at his former club Washington in the north-east expressed how cheeky Potts had been in a non-offensive way carrying the drive, chirp and confidence of his own ability to go somewhere deep into the game.
“It was nothing more than him wanting to prove a point - the alpha male inside him,” Thorpe said about his teammate. Potts started out his childhood career as a batter at Washington, opening as a schoolboy in men’s league cricket but that didn’t last long.
A glorious beginning to County career
At the age of 18, Potts made his debut for Durham as a right-arm medium pacer who can bat lower down the order. He had an outstanding start to the County Championship season after his cold debut against Kent with just one wicket in the game. In 2019, he shot into the spotlight with 17 wickets in his debut T20 Blast season.
Potts is the joint leading wicket-taker in County Championship 2022, with 35 wickets in just six games at an average of 18.57 in Division Two. In his six-for against Nottinghamshire earlier in the summer, five of his wickets were either bowled or LBW; also, against Worcestershire, he took six of the top seven batters.
Potts doesn’t have express pace; those who have seen him develop, note that Potts started to level up in this season and worked in the gym to take his pace in excess of 85 mph. That is why in recent times when pitches have been lifeless and more batting-friendly, Potts with enviable skills of banging the deck hard besides nibbling the ball around with seam and swing, has found success more regularly.
There was little doubt that Potts, whose father stands at 6ft 8in, would be a successful seam bowler. But it wasn’t easy for the fast bowler who for a good amount of time had spent his time on the physio bench in Durham. The omission from the 2021 season made Potts faster, fitter and more focused on his goal.
A dream Lord’s Test debut with 4-13 in first innings
8-4-8-3: This was the opening spell that Matthew Potts delivered after being roped into Test cricket for the first time in England shirt at Lord’s in London. There couldn’t have possibly been a better person than Steve Harmison to hand out the maiden cap to the youngster besides Potts also had the comfort of playing under his county captain, Ben Stokes.
“(I) Had a little bit of a tear in the eye early on this morning,” Potts revealed about the emotional moment. “A lot of my success is down to my family and it’s testament to their hard work as well as mine.”
Stokes brought him early into the attack and Potts in his opening over drew an edge off New Zealand captain Kane Williamson’s bat; the Kiwi skipper is the world’s third-best batter at present as per ICC Test rankings for batters. Then he baffled Daryl Mitchell and Tom Blundell with back of length and good length deliveries, respectively, that hit the timbre. Potts also got Ajaz Patel leg before the sticks.
He finished the first innings with figures of 4-13 in his 9.2 overs before leaving the field with a cramp; otherwise, there was hardly any hesitation that he would light up the stage with a debut five-wicket haul. “Yeah, it was a great debut and nice to get some wickets early on as well just to settle the nerves,” Potts spoke of his Test debut.
Potts dismissed Williamson twice on debut
Even though Potts’ figures of 20-3-55-3 in the second innings at Lord’s weren’t as impressive as the first innings returns, yet he got the better of Williamson in the second innings as well. Almost in the same fashion, Williamson went hard at the ball and found the ball end up in the hands of Jonny Bairstow at slip.
Potts also sent back opener Tom Latham before getting tail-ender Ajaz Patel leg before the stumps. Rob Key, the new managing director of England Cricket Board (ECB), before the start of the summer, recognized Potts as the ‘big difference’ and the 23-year-old from Durham displayed his knack of getting breakthroughs at vital junctures by executing his plans to perfection.
Trent Bridge game showed another skill of Potts
It was a different challenge for Potts at Trent Bridge. He was playing his second Test after a break of just three-four days and especially after a glorious debut at the ‘home of cricket’, Potts needed to be calm when the adrenaline rush was high.
The first innings saw him finish with 1-126 in 30.3 overs at an economy of 4.10; but in phases, he had been outstanding. Late on the first day, when other bowlers weren’t getting any kind of swing, Potts even with the old ball was moving it both ways which elucidated his unique skills.
The second innings showed that Potts could bowl with a proper plan and also can execute that. When England were trying to pack up New Zealand for a small score quickly, Michael Bracewell, late on the fourth day, was whacking the ball to all parts of the ground with an aim to score quick runs. Potts decided to bowl short balls keeping the mid-off fielder on the edge of the circle; one boundary went sailing over the fielder but Potts kept the fielder at the same place and eventually got success in dismissing Bracewell who was caught by a running Stuart Broad. Potts also had luck on his side in getting the wicket of Henry Nicholls as the former got the latter with a short and wide delivery which could have best been left alone.
England went on to win the game five wickets as Potts finished with 3-158 in 45.3 overs in the entire game.
Potts and his long vision for the future
Matthew Potts has 87 wickets in 26 first-class games at an average of 26.41 and a strike rate of 54.1, with four five-wicket hauls and a solitary 10-wicket haul. He has been regularly observed to place the field himself during his bowling. With 10 wickets in two games in Test matches at an average of 22.60 and an enviable strike rate of 44.9, Potts has begun his international career in the best possible way but he has to keep a few things in place going forward.
When England weren’t getting a wicket with no swing on offer, he could have shown his reverse swing abilities. With the historic tour of Pakistan awaited this year, Potts needs to take up his fitness level where he has to power up his physical and mental stability to bowl spells under the dusty conditions in Pakistan.
With Anderson and Broad not having more than 3-4 years in their legs, Mattew Potts from Durham’s production line can rise up for England on several occasions.