MA in Sports Journalism at St Mary's University

Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

England’s Fast Bowling Factory

A fearsome spell of fast bowling represents one of the most electric passages of play on a cricket field.

A side’s necessity for out and out pace bowlers is arguably at its most potent in the era of one-day batting dominance.

With the Cricket World Cup underway, England’s Jofra Archer has grabbed headlines for his quick, hostile and effective short balls and Michael Vaughan, amongst other pundits, considers him an automatic selection for the upcoming Ashes series.

Certainly, Australia have long had the upper-hand over the ‘poms’ in this arena.

Granted, the quicker, harder Australian pitches naturally make pace a more fruitful commodity down under. England have experienced the likes of Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins at their unplayable best in recent Ashes series, and are in desperate need to retaliate in kind.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JUNE 14 : Jofra Archer of England bowls during the ICC Cricket World Cup Group Match between England and the West Indies at the Hampshire Bowl on June 14, 2019 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Philip Brown/Popperfoto via Getty Images)

The oft-injured Mark Wood and the newly available Archer represent England’s brightest hope of closing the gap to the Aussies in the quicks department.

With a view to the future, how are England’s counties maximising the potential of up and coming young pacemen?

Sean Hunt, 17, has recently debuted for Surrey’s second team. Well built and standing at 6’5, Sean projects an intimidating presence to and from the crease.

Sharing insight into his own development with Surrey, he explains England’s glaring need for fast bowlers:

“I think having serious pace in the game today is so important – just look at England’s recent efforts in Australia – batsmen get scared and feel rushed by fast bowling.

“In my opinion, the key to bowling serious wheels is having a smooth run up and action, it all comes down to rhythm. Personally, I’ve been working on running in a bit quicker but trying to stay smooth to add consistency to my bowling – as well as a few extra yards of pace.

“You have to bowl with intent to hit someone or unsettle them.”

The aforementioned Archer epitomises the smooth run up and action Sean alludes to, boasting a high wrist position and using his strong, locked front leg as a base to seemingly effortlessly deliver the ball.

Archer, who averages 23 in first class cricket, certainly has all the tools to succeed with the red ball.

As the World Cup weather fluctuates, seamers will become more and more useful on green-top wickets. Liam Plunkett’s thus far excellent performances when called upon have given selectors a headache when it comes to England’s bowling unit.

RADLETT, ENGLAND – MAY 27: Sean Hunt of Surrey U18s bowls against Middlesex U18s in the ECB National Competition on May 27, 2018 in Radlett, England. (Photo by Sarah Ansell/Getty Images).

The importance of bowlers’ capabilities with the bat can be such a key determining factor when splitting hairs for selection, as Sean explains:

“Everyone these days needs to be able to bat. If you’re on par with another player’s bowling, the coaches look straight to batting and fielding prowess.

“The bat is vital for me at the moment – if I keep improving and gain more and more time out in the middle, I know I’ll become an indispensable member of the sides I represent.”

Becoming a three-dimensional cricketer is now the set standard for young players looking to make an impactful mark on the game – Sam Curran’s rise through the ranks as a wonderfully promising all-rounder is a journey today’s youngsters can seek to emulate.

However, with more coaches now aiming to bolster England’s fast bowling ranks in particular, the Aussies will soon undoubtedly be looking over their shoulder.