Joe Clarke shows why he could be England’s next Test wicketkeeper

Joe Clarke of Nottinghamshire leg glances
Joe Clarke hit 25 fours and a six in his unbeaten 209, batting like a 'less willowy Joe Root' - Harry Trump/Getty Images

England’s new off-spinner Shoaib Bashir spent a wicketless day when, after a winter under the Indian hammer, he was cast in the new role of potential match-winner for Somerset. It did not work out. On a perfectly true if slow pitch, Nottinghamshire’s Joe Clarke and Will Young achieved a new county third-wicket record partnership of 370, unbroken and chanceless.

Clarke’s 209 off 304 balls could not have been bettered, given that the pace of Somerset’s bowling did not exceed the early 80s mph. He bats like a sturdier, less willowy Joe Root, and thus drives more in the straight V than through the covers. Clarke gave Young a head’s start yet had reached 166 by the time Young followed to his hundred.

The Notts record stand of 368 had been set by the Gunns William and John, uncle and nephew, in 1903. If Clarke, at 27, is another gun batsman in the making, Young lags a little behind, but he was everything you expect a New Zealand top-order Test batsman to be: obdurate and content to defend while his partner kept on accelerating. He admitted he had no idea he was making history: “I pulled a ball for a couple of runs in the final over and thought the crowd were applauding rather loudly for a two! Then the record was announced over the public address system and I looked up to see Joe Clarke with a big smile on his face.”

Clarke had scored 104 and 105 in his first two championship games so this was his third century of this season, and as he has been keeping wicket too, competently, he is throwing his helmet into the ring as a candidate to be England’s next Test keeper. In red-ball cricket he is a number four but he has scored T20 hundreds so he could seize initiatives at seven far more quickly than Ben Foakes. And if Clarke were not good enough keeping, the experience would help equip him to be England’s number three in case Ollie Pope cannot contain his franticness at the start of an innings.

There was nothing in the pitch to welcome Bashir home from his triumph of 17 wickets in his three Tests in India, neither a blemish nor piece of rough to aim at even by the end of day three. It was a good game for Jack Leach to miss – he is back to opening the batting for Somerset’s second XI – but the county should be preparing used pitches for the best two spinners in the country to play together.

The pace of Bashir’s stock ball is impressive, now that he is confident enough to complete the swing of his right arm: it is debatable whether England have had a quicker Test off-spinner. He varied his pace too as the day wore on, but the Notts’ record-breakers got on top of him, Clarke going for big straightish drives, including his one six, while Young picked him off on the back foot. Bashir’s first 10 overs went for 20 runs, his next 15 for 71. He has the height, and accuracy, his fielding has some athleticism, and he does not beat himself up like some 20 year-old spinners – he ran from the boundary mid-over to console Lewis Goldsworthy as Clarke clobbered him – but he will need more revolutions a la Swann to turn both the ball and a match on Australian pitches.