Liam Dawson has been playing for Rangpur Riders © Bangladesh Cricket Board
Liam Dawson has admitted he is currently a better white than red-ball cricketer, but nevertheless hopes he can help England retain control in the field if he is selected for the Test team in India.
Dawson confesses he was “very surprised” to be called-up to replace the injured Zafar Ansari in England’s Test squad in India. But, while he claimed a modest-looking 22 Championship wickets during the 2016 season, Dawson feels he fulfilled a valuable role for his Hampshire side and is confident he can replicate it with England.
Specifically, despite bowling on surfaces that generally offered him little, he conceded only 2.85 runs per over and contributed over 600 runs with the bat at an average of 33.89. Combined with his experience of bowling under pressure in limited-overs cricket, Dawson feels he “offers some control with the ball.” Certainly Dawson is a much more accomplished bowler than the one that was carted for five sixes in succession (and off the first five balls of an over; the final one cost only a single) by Ben Stokes in a County Championship game in 2011.
“I’d admit my white-ball cricket is a lot stronger than my red-ball cricket,” Dawson said. “But I’ve played a lot of red-ball cricket and I feel I’m still improving in that area. If I get the opportunity, hopefully I’ll offer some control with the ball. That’s what I do with Hampshire. That’s all I can do if selected for England.
“I did all right in the Championship. I only played 12 games, due to the one-day series. People see my season as only getting 22 wickets and say it is very poor, but I did bowl well and I did give Hampshire control. That’s something hopefully I can do if I play in the Test match. That’s my job and that’s been my job for the last three years at the Ageas Bowl: to score runs and bring control with the ball. That’s all I can do if I play.”
Dawson has been playing in the Bangladesh Premier League. He went to Bangladesh as part of the England limited-overs squad almost as soon as the domestic season finished and then stayed on to play for Rangpur Riders. He is, therefore, match fit and has been playing regularly, but only in white ball cricket. For that reason, England may be reluctant to draft him straight into the Test team in Mumbai – the fourth Test starts on December 8 – increasing the suspicion that England might play two spinners (Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid) and four seamers (with Stuart Broad, if fit, adding to the three who played in Mohali), though any firm decision will only be made once they have taken a look at the pitch. Dawson has also never played in India, though he has been on various training camps to the country and was in the World T20 squad earlier this year.
“My job is to offer control, but if the wicket is spinning keep landing it in the right area and hopefully the wicket does the rest,” Dawson said. “There’s no doubt the Indian batsmen are exceptional players. It’s an amazing challenge for me and if I am to play it’ll be a huge honour.”
Dawson has a good chance of keeping his place in England’s limited-overs squad which is to be named on Monday night. Having made his debut in the T20I and ODI teams in July and September respectively, he can expect to be named in the squad for the games (three ODIs and three T20Is) in India in the new year.
With Eoin Morgan returning as captain and Alex Hales as opening batsman, there are difficult decisions to make over a couple of other positions. Jonny Bairstow looks especially vulnerable, though James Vince, Sam Billings and Ben Duckett may be competing for one or two places. Joe Root, who was rested for the series in Bangladesh, is keen to play despite expecting his first child at the start of January. One or two of the all-rounders who feature in all formats of the game, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes, might also be rested.
Meanwhile, it is anticipated that Haseeb Hameed will return to India in the coming days to watch the final two Tests as he recovers from the operation on his hand.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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