Dom Bess had England fans daydreaming about an unlikely escape during the Lord’s Test against Pakistan, becoming the third-youngest Englishman to score a fifty on debut during a stand with Jos Buttler that took the game into the fourth day, but he knows that “a good performance with the ball” at Headingley later this week will be more important when it comes to staying in the team.
Bess, who won his Test cap after an injury to Somerset team-mate Jack Leach opened up the spinner’s spot, bowled tidily in the first innings before conceding 29 from 3.4 overs as Pakistan raced to victory on Sunday. Although he was left waiting for a first Test wicket, he said he did not feel out of his depth and was already thinking about the next match, which starts in Leeds on Friday.
“I had a little bit of nervousness, but nothing to the extent I remember having for my first-class debut,” he said. “I just looked at this game as an amazing opportunity to show what I can do.
“Come next week at Headingley I’ve got to put in a good performance with the ball and try to cement a place in the side. More than nerves I feel that I’ve got a great chance to give a good account of myself.”
Lord’s is not necessarily the ideal ground for a spinner to make their debut on – Pakistan’s Shadab Khan, himself only 19 and playing his third Test, had match figures of 25-2-97-2 – and Headingley is another seamer-friendly venue, but Bess said he had already started thinking about how he could improve second time out.
“I think the one big thing I can take from this game is how to bowl maidens,” he said. “I’ve got to be able to construct six good balls together which is something I usually do. It is just about understanding this level where you can bowl an okay ball but it can still go to the boundary, you’ve got to be on it every ball. They can play good shots and understanding that is key.
“I wasn’t fazed at all. I knew it was going to be a pretty big task as the spinner first up, but if you look at Khan’s figures from the first innings, he bowled six overs for 34 and I remember having a quick chat with him and he said it was very tough to bowl in these conditions.
“As a Pakistani spinner, he might only be 19 but he will have been picked ahead of some high-quality options because they have so many spinners out there. It was interesting to get his thoughts on it, and overall I thought I held my own when trying to contain.
“I went at just over threes and I wasn’t fazed by the crowd or the occasion and the media attention. It was just another game of cricket.”
Despite Bess’ second-innings 57, and a partnership of 116 with Buttler, England could only manage to set Pakistan 64 to win, which they knocked off without drama. Bess might have had more of a chance to impress with his offspin defending a bigger target, only for an anticlimactic start to the fourth morning as England lost 4 for 6 in 25 balls, but he was pleased to have been able to prove his all-round abilities.
“I back my batting, but hopefully I’ve shown what I can do as a three dimensional cricketer,” Bess said. “It was about backing the scoring shots that you’ve got but giving yourself time to get in and get a feel of the wicket and the bowlers. Once you’re in and seeing it well then you can start expanding your shots.
“The final morning was disappointing, losing Jos early before the new ball arrived. If we were to have any chance then Jos and I had to put another big partnership on and take the new ball out of play.
“It was nice to see the ball turn in that second innings and I personally think it could have been interesting had we managed to take it deep into day four or five and had around a 200-run lead. I managed to get a couple to really spin on that pitch which could have been interesting.”