Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Gleeson makes its mark on the debut of the T20I

“They’re all human, at the end of the day,” Richard Gleeson told ESPNcricinfo last week of the prospect of bowling for Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Rishabh Pant in his England debut, aged 34. Edgbaston, he dismissed the three in the space of four balls.

England’s second defeat to India in three days – by an almost identical margin, by 49 runs after losing by 50 in the Ageas Bowl on Thursday – was a punishment, their seventh defeat in the last nine T20Is dating back to the last game. of the group at last year’s T20 World Cup against South Africa.

But there is a balance to be struck in the T20I bilateral sets: is winning more important or learning? Jos Buttler said he was “very disappointed” by the defeat, but with Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Adil Rashid and Mark Wood returning in time for the World Cup later this year, the team will look significantly different in Australia in October.

Going into this series, England’s main problem area was death bowling: they’ve been one of the most expensive teams in the world at the end of innings for the past two years. Gleeson’s selection was primarily aimed at solving that problem after he hit his yorkers for Lancashire in the T20 Blast this year.

In fact, he was more destructive while the ball was still relatively new. Buttler took him forward with India 43-0 after four overs and Rohit and Pant both tied. It generally threw a little less than a good length, looking to hit the club joint, and reached speeds of 89 mph/144 km/h – although it generally operated in the mid-1980s.

“If you had said when I was 27 and starting professional cricket that I would be playing at 34 for England, I would never have imagined it.”

Gleeson for the BBC after its debut on T20I

His second ball disappeared in the middle of the wicket by four, but it was the only limit he conceded in his four overhangs. For his fifth ball, Rohit looked to give himself room to hit the outside, but Gleeson followed, speeding him up to pace, and Buttler ran back to put his top edge on the edge of the ring.

With the first two balls of his second over, the seventh, Gleeson hit a good distance to Kohli, who tried to go over the midwicket; Dawid Malan ran back to the back, diving to get an excellent grip past its thick outer edge. Pant, like Rohit, seemed to give himself space, but Gleeson squeezed him for space, inducing a thin edge to Buttler.

Eight balls, three wickets – and three of the greatest in international cricket, in terms of reputation. Eight months ago, Gleeson’s career was on the line as his slow recovery from a stress fracture to his back left him looking to the prospect of retirement. Unlike most international premieres, there was a sense that Gleeson didn’t stand a chance.

The rest of his spell was impressive as well, most notably the pace he generated: he shot four straight balls to Hardik Pandya, then five out of six to Dinesh Karthik with a ball in the middle when hitting a strong length, avoiding the Yorker – heavy strategy that earned him his place. His numbers, 3-15 over four overs, were the second-best by an England player in the men’s T20I debut.

“I’m happy with my speed,” he said. “This year, I’m probably bowling a little faster. [England selection] it wasn’t on my radar: it was just playing to the highest standard I could. I just want to keep playing cricket and having fun and playing as much as I can. Who knows, if I keep acting, anything could happen.

“I’ll play whatever role I can. It was different today, but I was trying to hold the ball on the debut and calm my nerves. My natural choice is hard lengths, then some yorkers and slipping on a few bumpers every now and then. tough, especially at that wicket today, was the way to go.”

Gleeson’s Lancashire contract expires a week after the T20 Finals Day at Blast, but now he’ll have a T20 World Cup spot on his radar: “You want to play on the big occasions, don’t you?” he said, “then why not?” In the short term, he’s done enough to earn opportunities against South Africa in the T20Is later this month.

Gleeson’s journey is remarkable – not just his late entry into the game, but his ability to overcome consecutive years of fallow due to the back injuries that threatened to end his career. He had to ask his employers, Myerscough College in Preston, for permission to play in this series; his BTEC students will give him a hero’s welcome when he returns to work next week.

“If you had said when I was 27 and starting professional cricket that I would be playing at 34 for England, I would never have imagined it,” he told the BBC. “It just goes to show that if you keep persevering and believing in yourself, you’ll never know what might happen.”

Matt Roller is assistant editor for ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98

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