Matt Parkinson creeps closer to England Test debut

Matt Parkinson creeps closer to England Test debut after taking four wickets in Sri Lanka warm-up game

  • Matt Parkinson has been involved in three tours without playing a Test match
  • Yet the leg-spinner could make his debut during the two-test Sri Lanka tour
  • England look set to play two specialist spinners for the first test in Galle 
  • Seam bowler Saqib Mahmood also did his hopes no harm on Saturday  

Matt Parkinson has spent the winter on tour with England without ever looking ready for a Test appearance. Yesterday he moved a little closer towards that debut.

It may be premature to think about the young and still raw leg-spinner facing up to Sri Lanka in Galle and Colombo just yet but Parkinson looked more at home with a red ball in his hands yesterday than at any time during three largely inactive senior trips.

England were only facing an inexperienced Sri Lanka Cricket XI on the second day of this two-Test tour but Parkinson bowled with accuracy and varied his pace intelligently in taking four wickets as the hosts were bowled out for 245.

Matt Parkinson took four wickets during England’s warm-up against a Sri Lanka Cricket XI

There is little doubt the 23-year-old Lancastrian would not be here now had Moeen Ali or Adil Rashid been available to attempt to replicate the success they had in Sri Lanka on England’s last trip just 14 months ago in an unexpected 3-0 victory.

And even with so few spin options available to England Parkinson was perhaps a little fortunate to be picked in this squad after looking out of his depth the last time he was seen in a competitive red-ball match in Benoni at the start of the South African tour.

But England firmly believe he is learning on the sidelines under the guidance of new spin coach Jeetan Patel and are prepared to play the long-game with a bowler who still sees himself first and foremost as a white-ball cricketer.

‘I think so because of the amount of white-ball cricket I’ve played,’ said Parkinson when asked if he still feels more comfortable in coloured clothing. ‘I’m still very raw with the red ball and I think people sometimes forget that, as a spinner, you develop later.

The 23-year-old leg-spinner admitted he was more accustomed to white-ball cricket currently

‘Expectations are raised when you’ve been on three Test tours but I’ve still only played 20 first-class games so I’m still very new to red-ball cricket. It’s a bit different.

‘I guess I’m still finding my feet and finding your feet at this level is difficult. But playing with these lads hopefully I can do that a bit quicker.’

England look certain to play two specialist spinners in the first Test at Galle as opposed to three in the 2018 series and the odds are still very much on those places being filled by the Somerset pair of Dom Bess and Jack Leach, as long as he recovers from injury.

But if Leach is still feeling his calf problem and Parkinson gets the nod for the first-class match next week that completes England’s preparations then it is no longer quite such a foregone conclusion that he is here simply to look and learn.

‘I’ve not really thought about a Test cap yet after the way the warm-ups went for me in New Zealand and South Africa when I didn’t perform as well as I would have liked,’ insisted Parkinson. 

‘But I hope I’m becoming a better bowler. There are more opportunities for spin in Sri Lanka and I’ll try to get picked for the four-day warm-up game and then we’ll see.’

Parkinson fist-pumps Sam Curran on a successful day with the ball during the warm-up fixture

Saqib Mahmood is an outsider for the first Test but did himself no harm on Saturday

Parkinson was not the only Lancastrian to impress yesterday. Saqib Mahmood was a late addition to this squad as a replacement for Mark Wood but he displayed enough skiddy pace here in taking one for 13 to show why he has been awarded a fast-bowling contract.

Mahmood, too, is still an outsider for Galle on March 19 but he did no harm at all to his chances of providing the extra pace that is lacking in England’s attack in the absence here of Wood, Jofra Archer and Olly Stone.

England had to work hard on a flat pitch to earn a first innings lead of 71 – Bess also bowled well in taking three wickets – and extended it by 39 by the close of the second of three days for the unlucky loss of Dom Sibley to one he did not seem to touch.

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