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There is a certain style that has taken Dan Lawrence to the brink of a Test debut, and he is not the sort to turn his back on it three days before cap No696 is on his head.
Lawrence is just 23 but has been tipped to play Test cricket for almost six years, since he scored 161 from No3, in his second first-class game, at the Kia Oval, against a Surrey side containing 10 internationals, past, present or future.
Since, there have been peaks and troughs that have brought an average of 38 nine more first-class centuries – four of them in Essex County Championship title-winning seasons, another on an England Lions tour of Australia last February. Two things have stood out along the way: his flamboyant, legside-heavy technique and his confidence. Neither is going to leave him this week.
“I am a big one for trying to do things in my own way… you could call it unique, but it doesn’t seem it to me,” he said from Galle today. “It’s trying to stick to my guns and what I’ve done that’s made me successful so far. I don’t want to come into an England environment and completely change everything because that wouldn’t be true to myself.
“A big thing for me is having the confidence in my own game, I do believe I can be really successful at this level, it’s just a matter of going and doing it now. Hopefully if I do get the nod on Thursday, I stay true to myself, go out there and really express myself and not sit in a hole, or let the situation get too much for me. The confidence in my own game is quite a big strength of mine.
“I’ve had a big technical change over the last 12 months. When I was playing for Essex before I was triggering too much and getting out in ways I shouldn’t have done. I’ve really simplified things down a little bit now. I feel really confident in my new technique. I really do believe I can be successful, it’s just a matter of getting out there and doing it now really.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was really young. I’m loving every single minute of being here, the training is fantastic, lovely hotel. It’s just really exciting to be a part of. If I do play, then god knows how I will feel on Thursday, but at the moment I’m feeling pretty calm about it and full of excitement.”
The last 12 months have been some journey for Lawrence. It started last February with 493 runs in six innings for the Lions in Australia, then the pandemic struck, denying him cricket for months. He was part of England’s bubble for the Test summer, but had to leave when his mother, Claire, died. Days later, he returned to play for Essex, then went to Australia for his first taste of the Big Bash with Brisbane Heat.
“It was a very strange year for me for a number of reasons,” he said. "I started the year really well in Australia and was on a massive high, then Covid hit and we couldn’t play cricket for three months. I was on a really big high and had to get back down to earth. I got into the bubble with the England boys which I was really enjoying.
“Mum had been ill for a couple of years so as sad as it was, I had mentally prepared myself for the worst happening. That made things quite tough for a couple of months. It was lovely to go back and play some cricket for Essex around my really good mates, who I needed at that time. They were all fantastic.
“Then I went to Australia for five weeks, I had the challenge of quarantining for two weeks, which is something I wouldn’t want to do again. I played a few games over there and now I’m here. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, but if I play on Thursday it’ll be a brilliant start to what will hopefully be a better year.”
Lawrence is steeped in cricket. His Dad, Mark, is the groundsman at Chingford Cricket Club, and the family lived next to the ground. Lawrence remembers Mark “out there trying to make every blade of grass look perfect” and “conversation after conversation around cricket”.
“He played for Chingford 1s as a wicket-keeper and from the war stories he has told me, he seemed like he was decent with the gloves,” he said. "But I reckon he is a bit of a taxman and always adds an extra 10 or 20% to every story. Apparently he was half decent. He has been very good for me. He used to feed me so many balls when I was younger. He always wanted me to be a cricketer so it has worked out quite well.”
With a first appearance at the game’s pinnacle imminent, it certainly has.