Ben Stokes wants fast bowlers and spinners – County Championship is showing why

Nottinghamshire's Calvin Harrison
Nottinghamshire's Calvin Harrison

Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum want young spinners and fast bowlers, not medium-pacers, and what the England management want they are getting in the first two rounds of County Championship matches. Cuckoos have not arrived yet young English spinners are taking wickets.

Middlesex, with their battery of medium-pacers, have been spectacularly toothless with the Kookaburra ball in hand. They have conceded more than 1,000 runs in taking 10 wickets, and in both matches they have won the toss and sent their opponents in.

Northamptonshire’s Emilio Gay went to a career-best 261 off 401 balls against Middlesex, just surpassing Alex Davies, Warwickshire’s captain, who took his overnight score to 256 off only 311 balls against Durham, exploiting to the full Edgbaston’s brief boundaries during the county’s second-highest total ever.

Emilio Gay of Northamptonshire acknowledges the applause on reaching his double century during the Vitality County Championship division two match between Northamptonshire and Middlesex at The County Ground on April 13, 2024 in Northampton, England
Northamptonshire piled on the runs against Middlesex - Getty Images/Andy Kearns

Yet young spinners are taking wickets. At Cardiff, Derbyshire’s off-spinner Alex Thomson took 10 of Glamorgan’s first 13 wickets, while Mason Crane – on loan from Hampshire where he could not get a red-ball game – took four wickets in his 25 overs.

At the Oval, where Somerset gave Shoaib Bashir a game, England’s 20-year-old off-spinner was so accurate that he conceded less than two runs an over against the county champions. Surrey’s all-rounder Cameron Steel, who has taken nine wickets for 75 already this season with his leg-spin, has batted the home team into a useful lead.

And another leg-spinner Calvin Harrison gave Nottinghamshire the upper hand with three quick wickets against Worcestershire. Kookaburras handicap seamers but not spinners.

Yorkshire succeeded in bowling three consecutive overs of off-spin with three different bowlers, just before tea, and conjured a wicket. Harry Brook whizzed through an over which was not his normal slow-medium but might just have been counted as off-spin by Burley-in-Wharfedale 3rd XI and, more importantly, did it so quickly that Yorkshire squeezed in two more overs before tea. Joe Root bowled a proper over of off-spin, then Adam Lyth replaced Brook and with a flighty off-break had two-Test cap James Bracey slicing to slip where Root took a brilliant right-handed catch.

Yorkshire ended up with a first innings lead of 63, thanks partly to a swipe by Gloucestershire’s captain Graeme van Buuren, which would have embarrassed most tailenders. Root and Brook, who scored two and 26 respectively, will hope for a second innings before a Yorkshire declaration.