Richard Gleeson savours debut to remember despite England’s loss to India

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Richard Gleeson, right, celebrates the wicket of Virat Kohli (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)
Richard Gleeson, right, celebrates the wicket of Virat Kohli (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)

After being on the brink of retirement only a couple of years ago, Richard Gleeson cherished his first England appearance despite India claiming a 49-run win in the second Twenty20 at Edgbaston.

India moved into an unassailable 2-0 series lead with just a dead rubber at Trent Bridge to come on Sunday, as England subsided to 121 all out in 17 overs following another limp batting display.

The tourists had earlier posted 170 for eight, with Chris Jordan taking four for 27, his best figures in a T20 international since March 2019, but it was Gleeson who was particularly striking in the field.

The 34-year-old became the oldest England debutant since Paul Nixon in 2007 and snared the princely wickets of India captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant within the space of four balls.

Following his three for 15, Gleeson reflected on the stress fracture in his lower back which might have ended his career in 2020. He signed a T20-only deal with Lancashire this season and was a revelation in the Vitality Blast, taking the most wickets by an England-qualified bowler to earn his chance here.

“It wasn’t me contemplating retirement,” he said. “It’s something that would have been forced upon me.

“(The recovery) was a long, slow process. Unfortunately because of my age it takes a little bit longer to heal from things like that.

“But (playing again) makes it all worthwhile. Just getting back out in the park and playing for Lancs was what my aim was and to do that was great. And then to do well was even better.

“But this wasn’t even anywhere near my radar. So to get the nod first of all, and then to actually go and perform as well, even better.

“It’s all about winning games of cricket at the end of the day so it’s disappointing to lose but on a personal note it was a great start.”

Gleeson, who hurried India captain Rohit on the pull before inducing the outside and inside edges of Kohli and Pant respectively, has been a late bloomer in the sport.

He did not make his first-class debut until he was 27 but his career continued in an upward trend after gaining England Lions recognition in 2018 before switching to Lancashire from Northamptonshire later in the season. He was an England reserve for a one-day series against Ireland but then injury struck.

He has combined his playing duties with a teaching job this year but while he is out of contract at Lancashire in the next few days, he is optimistic of a new deal and was recently snapped up by Manchester Originals in the wildcard draft ahead of the second edition of The Hundred.

Renowned for his consistency and being able to nail his yorkers in pressure scenarios, Gleeson showed injury has not taken the edge off as he approached 90mph on the speed gun on Saturday.

“You’ve just got to stick with what you do,” he said. “There’s no point in coming in and trying something completely different.

“That’s what I’ve been picked for. That’s what I’ve been told to go out and do so to execute is always great.”

With a host of bowlers injured in the medium to long-term, Gleeson appears to be a bolter for the T20 World Cup which gets under way in Australia in a little more than three months’ time.

Richard Gleeson, right, celebrates the wicket of Rishabh Pant (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)
Richard Gleeson, right, celebrates the wicket of Rishabh Pant (David Davies/PA) (PA Wire)

While he welcomed the prospect, he insisted – moments after Jos Buttler suffered his second successive defeat as England’s full-time limited-overs captain – that he was not looking too far ahead.

“You want to play in the big occasions, don’t you? So, yeah, why not? I’ll just look towards the next game and go from that, I think,” he added.

“(England selection) wasn’t on my radar. It was just to play the highest standard that I could. I just want to keep playing cricket and enjoying it, and playing for as long as I can.

“Who knows? If I keep performing, anything could happen.

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