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Hampshire let-off can be Champion for Liam

Richard Dawson speaks to Hampshire Liam Dawson as he aims to make the most of his county’s reprieve

Liam Dawson heard about Hampshire’s last minute Division One reprieve on WhatsApp back in October – now he’s hoping to leave his own calling card as the season gets underway.

The Hampshire all-rounder made his Test debut against India in Chennai back in December, spending 190 overs in the field as the home side’s batsmen racked up an eye-watering 759-7 declared. It was hardly the start that the former England U19 captain would have dreamed of, but he insists he wouldn’t have had it any other way.

“It’s your Test debut so it was hard not to enjoy it,” says Dawson. “Obviously they were racking up the runs but there’s not many people who get the chance to play Test cricket so, for me, it was an unbelievable five days. It was a great experience and something that I’ll never forget.”

England ultimately lost the match by an innings and 75 runs, despite compiling a score of 477 in their first innings. Dawson’s contribution to that was a composed 66 not out – a score which seemed unlikely when he was hit on the head by Ishant Sharma second ball.

That he recovered came as no surprise to those who have admired Dawson’s gritty approach in the past, Trevor Bayliss among them.

“I’ve always backed my batting so I was actually more nervous bowling,” he says. “Batting is my strongest suit, I obviously got whacked on the head second ball so that woke me up a little bit. It was a little bit different but that’s part of cricket. Sometimes you’re going to get hit but you just have to deal with it.

“It was something that I’ll never forgot and it was amazing to experience a Test match because that’s something I never thought I would do.”

Dawson was a left-field pick in many ways, jumping the queue of English spinners after Zafar Ansari was struck down with injury. He did his cause no harm at all with both bat and ball – he took 2-129 off 43 tidy overs in India’s mammoth total – but accepts that he may have to bide his time before he runs out in a Test match again.

Dawson still has only a single one-day international cap to his name, with his debut against Pakistan in Cardiff back in September his only England appearance in 50-over cricket. He travelled to the Caribbean for England’s recent one-day waltz against the West Indies but did nothing more strenuous than distribute a few drinks in a 3-0 series win.

He does, though, remain firmly in England’s thoughts as a busy summer of one-day cricket approaches, starting with the Champions Trophy.

“We’ve obviously got a lot of four-day cricket before that (the Champions Trophy). We haven’t really got any white ball cricket before that but I think I’m in a good place with my white ball cricket and I don’t think there’s much more I can do. I had a good North v South series which was obviously very pleasing but all you can do is perform.

“Hopefully I’ve put my name into the hat. That’s all you can do.”

Despite his protestations that his batting is his strongest suit, it’s Dawson’s bowling that has thrust him into the international mix. Seen primarily as a defensively minded spinner, the England selectors will be keen to see how he fares in the early weeks of the season as Hampshire, one of the outsiders for the title at Sun Bets, take on Yorkshire twice and current County Champions, Middlesex.

Dawson himself will be out to improve on his 20 wickets at 44 in last season’s County Championship as Hampshire’s fortunes slumped before the ECB’s intervention. Whatever happens, he’s looking for a huge improvement on what happened last time out.

“Nobody wants to stay in the Division the way that we did but we’re extremely lucky,” he says. “This season coming, we don’t want to be in the same situation in September.”

It’s his good fortune that he still finds himself playing Division One cricket and given his importance to Hampshire he can certainly look forward to a prolonged period without having to carry the drinks.

Hampshire will certainly raise a glass to him if they can avoid another battle at the wrong end of the table.

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, April 7 2017

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